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J Invest Dermatol. 1995 Jul;105(1):8-13.

Ultraviolet radiation decreases the granulomatous response to lepromin in humans.

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  • 1Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital, Porto Alegre, Brazil.


Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) modulates cellular immunity in humans and experimental animals and can interfere with immune responses against infectious agents in animal models. We used the lepromin reaction, a cell-mediated immune response to antigens of Mycobacterium leprae, to determine whether UVR affects the cellular immune response to an infectious agent in humans. We selected 29 healthy, lepromin-positive contacts of leprosy patients and determined their minimal erythema dose (MED) of UVR. Immediately afterward, each subject was injected with 0.1 ml of lepromin in two areas of the buttocks: one at the site that had received twice the MED of UVR and the other on the contralateral, unirradiated site. The irradiated site was given twice the MED every 4 d for a total of five treatments. One week after the last irradiation, both lepromin reactions were measured and biopsied. The size of the lepromin-induced granulomas was significantly reduced in the irradiated site, as was the number of lymphocytes. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a depletion in the number of infiltrating cells and a lower percentage of T cells, particularly the CD4+ subpopulation, in granulomas formed in UV-irradiated skin. This study demonstrates that local UV irradiation reduces the granulomatous reaction to lepromin in sensitized individuals. These findings are of clinical relevance because of the fundamental role played by the delayed-type hypersensitivity response in defense against intracellular pathogens and because of potential increases in the amount of UVR in sunlight reaching the earth's surface.

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