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Immunology. 2000 Jul;100(3):391-8.

Interactions between hormone-mediated and vaccine-mediated immunotherapy for pulmonary tuberculosis in BALB/c mice.

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Experimental Pathology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Instituto Nacional de la Nutricion 'Salvador Zubiran', Mexico City, Mexico.


Problems of logistics, compliance and drug resistance point to an urgent need for immunotherapeutic strategies capable of shortening the current 6-month chemotherapy regimens used to treat tuberculosis, or of supplementing ineffective therapy. In this study we sought to define the mechanism of action of two immunotherapies, both of which have previously been shown to prolong survival. Secondly, we wished to identify any clinically useful synergy between these therapies. In BALB/c mice infected via the trachea with Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv there is an initial phase of partial resistance dominated by type 1 cytokines plus tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1 (IL-1), followed by a phase of progressive disease. This progressive phase is accompanied by increasing expression of IL-4, and diminished expression of IL-1 and TNF-alpha. Animals in this late progressive phase of the disease (day 60) were treated with two injections (day 60 and day 90) of 0.1 or 1.0 mg of heat-killed Mycobacterium vaccae, or with 3beta, 17beta-androstenediol (AED; 25 microg subcutaneously three times/week), or with both therapies. We show here using four techniques in parallel (morphometry, immunohistochemistry with automated cell counting, semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays of cytokines in lung extracts) that treatment with M. vaccae causes a switch back towards a type 1 cytokine profile, restoration of expression of IL-1alpha and TNF-alpha, and a switch from pneumonia to granuloma. This is very similar to the changes previously seen after treatment with AED. However, there was no evidence for synergy between M. vaccae and AED.

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