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Infect Immun. 1997 Nov;65(11):4843-9.

Lethal tuberculosis in interleukin-6-deficient mutant mice.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, University of Ulm, Germany.


Tuberculosis is a chronic infectious disease which causes major health problems globally. Acquired resistance is mediated by T lymphocytes and executed by activated macrophages. In vitro studies have emphasized the importance of macrophage activation for mycobacterial growth inhibition. In vivo, the protective host response is focused on granulomatous lesions in which Mycobacterium tuberculosis is contained. A cellular immune response of the T helper 1 (Th1) type is considered central for control of tuberculosis. Using interleukin-6 (IL-6)-deficient mice, we here demonstrate a crucial role of this pluripotent cytokine in protection against M. tuberculosis but not against Mycobacterium bovis BCG. Infection with M. tuberculosis was lethal for the IL-6-deficient mice at inocula that were still controlled by IL-6-competent mice. Spleen cells from M. tuberculosis-infected IL-6-/- mouse mutants produced elevated levels of IL-4 and reduced levels of gamma interferon compared to the control levels. Cytofluorometric analyses of spleen cells from M. tuberculosis-infected mice revealed more-profound alterations in T-cell ratios in IL-6-/- mice than in control mice. We assume that IL-6 contributes to host resistance by its proinflammatory activity and by its influence on cytokine secretion.

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