One of the greatest challenges in Chagas disease research is the search for tools that will enable the assessment of pharmacological treatment efficacy. A recently described set of serological biomarkers composed of four parasite antigens and established criteria of treatment efficacy allowed the evaluation of the impact of benznidazole treatment a short/medium time after the treatment. In addition, cellular immunological parameters have also been described as potential indicators of the treatment response. The cytotoxic CD8+ T cells specific to five epitopes in the PFR2, PFR3, TcCA-2 and KMP11 antigens have been analysed, and these epitopes have been shown to be recognized, processed and presented in the context of a natural T. cruzi infection. In the present manuscript, we characterized these antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in indeterminate chronic Chagas disease patients both before and after (from 11 to 28 months) benznidazole treatment. The results indicate that there is a differential memory CD8+ T cell profile depending on the antigenic epitope and that the benznidazole treatment modulates the memory, differentiation and senescence phenotypes of the epitope-specific CD8+ T cells. Moreover, in these patients, the reactivity of sera against the referred set of biomarkers was evaluated. The data obtained show that the patients who met the established therapeutic efficacy criteria presented a differential phenotypic profile of the antigen-specific CD8+ T cells even prior to treatment compared to the patients who did not meet the therapeutic efficacy criteria, and this behaviour is associated with a better functionality of these CD8+ T cells.
Keywords: Benznidazole treatment; Biomarkers; Chagas disease; Cytokines; Cytotoxic molecules; Epitope-specific CD8(+) T cells; Humoral response; Memory phenotype.
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