Pre-Treatment Neutrophil Count as a Predictor of Antituberculosis Therapy Outcomes: A Multicenter Prospective Cohort Study

Front Immunol. 2021 Jul 2:12:661934. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.661934. eCollection 2021.


Background: Neutrophils have been associated with lung tissue damage in many diseases, including tuberculosis (TB). Whether neutrophil count can serve as a predictor of adverse treatment outcomes is unknown.

Methods: We prospectively assessed 936 patients (172 HIV-seropositive) with culture-confirmed pulmonary TB, enrolled in a multicenter prospective cohort study from different regions in Brazil, from June 2015 to June 2019, and were followed up to two years. TB patients had a baseline visit before treatment (month 0) and visits at month 2 and 6 (or at the end of TB treatment). Smear microscopy, and culture for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) were performed at TB diagnosis and during follow-up. Complete blood counts were measured at baseline. Treatment outcome was defined as either unfavorable (death, treatment failure or TB recurrence) or favorable (cure or treatment completion). We performed multivariable logistic regression, with propensity score regression adjustment, to estimate the association between neutrophil count with MTB culture result at month 2 and unfavorable treatment outcome. We used a propensity score adjustment instead of a fully adjusted regression model due to the relatively low number of outcomes.

Results: Among 682 patients who had MTB culture results at month 2, 40 (5.9%) had a positive result. After regression with propensity score adjustment, no significant association between baseline neutrophil count (103/mm3) and positive MTB culture at month 2 was found among either HIV-seronegative (OR = 1.06, 95% CI = [0.95;1.19] or HIV-seropositive patients (OR = 0.77, 95% CI = [0.51; 1.20]). Of 691 TB patients followed up for at least 18 months and up to 24 months, 635 (91.9%) were either cured or completed treatment, and 56 (8.1%) had an unfavorable treatment outcome. A multivariable regression with propensity score adjustment found an association between higher neutrophil count (103/mm3) at baseline and unfavorable outcome among HIV-seronegative patients [OR= 1.17 (95% CI= [1.06;1.30]). In addition, adjusted Cox regression found that higher baseline neutrophil count (103/mm3) was associated with unfavorable treatment outcomes overall and among HIV-seronegative patients (HR= 1.16 (95% CI = [1.05;1.27]).

Conclusion: Increased neutrophil count prior to anti-TB treatment initiation was associated with unfavorable treatment outcomes, particularly among HIV-seronegative patients. Further prospective studies evaluating neutrophil count in response to drug treatment and association with TB treatment outcomes are warranted.

Keywords: biomarker; neutrophil count; neutrophils; treatment outcome; tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / adverse effects
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary


  • Antitubercular Agents