Heterogeneity in tuberculosis

Nat Rev Immunol. 2017 Nov;17(11):691-702. doi: 10.1038/nri.2017.69. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


Infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), results in a range of clinical presentations in humans. Most infections manifest as a clinically asymptomatic, contained state that is termed latent TB infection (LTBI); a smaller subset of infected individuals present with symptomatic, active TB. Within these two seemingly binary states, there is a spectrum of host outcomes that have varying symptoms, microbiologies, immune responses and pathologies. Recently, it has become apparent that there is diversity of infection even within a single individual. A good understanding of the heterogeneity that is intrinsic to TB - at both the population level and the individual level - is crucial to inform the development of intervention strategies that account for and target the unique, complex and independent nature of the local host-pathogen interactions that occur in this infection. In this Review, we draw on model systems and human data to discuss multiple facets of TB biology and their relationship to the overall heterogeneity observed in the human disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Granuloma / immunology
  • Granuloma / microbiology
  • Granuloma / pathology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology*
  • Tuberculosis / pathology


  • Antitubercular Agents