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J Infect Dis. 2000 Sep;182(3):895-901. Epub 2000 Aug 15.

Evaluation of human antimycobacterial immunity using recombinant reporter mycobacteria.

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Dept. of Paediatrics, Imperial College School of Medicine, St. Mary's Campus, London W2 1NY, United Kingdom.


A novel in vitro whole blood model was developed to study human antimycobacterial immunity. Recombinant reporter mycobacteria were used to enumerate the bacteria, and interactions between host immune cells and mycobacteria were studied using whole blood rather than cell fractions. The ability of healthy tuberculin-positive and tuberculin-negative individuals to restrict mycobacterial growth was compared. Growth of luminescent mycobacteria was significantly lower in blood samples of tuberculin-positive individuals than in blood samples of tuberculin-negative individuals (P=.005). Restricted mycobacterial growth was associated with significantly higher production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interferon (IFN)-gamma (P=.01 and.004, respectively). Inhibition of the TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma response pathways by neutralizing monoclonal antibodies increased mycobacterial growth in whole blood. This model is the first functional assay in which individual variations in cell-mediated immunity are shown to correlate with differences in ability to control mycobacterial growth. It provides a new tool for studying human mycobactericidal mechanisms and, potentially, for the evaluation of improved vaccines.

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