Localization and retention of mycobacterial antigen in lymph nodes of leprosy patients

Br J Exp Pathol. 1987 Oct;68(5):733-41.


Although leprosy, a chronic disease caused by M. leprae, primarily affects skin and peripheral nerves, pathological changes and granulomas have been observed in lymph nodes which are: (a) present in tuberculoid lymph nodes in the absence of acid-fact bacilli and (b) persistent in lepromatous patients even after prolonged treatment. We detected substantial amounts of mycobacterial antigen in 16 leprous lymph nodes using anti-BCG by the peroxidase anti-peroxidase method. The load and distribution of antigen varied along the spectrum and with the duration of treatment. Tuberculoid and long-term treated lepromatous lymph nodes had a similar distribution of antigen in clusters of cells giving a 'speckled' appearance. The untreated lepromatous had a 'diffuse' staining of antigen in foamy histiocytes whereas lepromatous lesions with a lower bacillary load had a mixed pattern of 'diffuse' and 'speckled'. Antigen was also detected in a number of plasma cells along the spectrum but predominantly in lepromatous lymph nodes. Our observations indicate that: (a) antigen exists in lymph nodes despite prolonged chemotherapy which may be responsible for the persistent granuloma and (b) antigen is not confined to any particular anatomical compartment of the lymph node.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Leprosy / drug therapy
  • Leprosy / immunology*
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium leprae / immunology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial