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Clin Exp Immunol. 2003 May;132(2):283-8.

T lymphocyte phenotypic profile in lung segments affected by cavitary and non-cavitary tuberculosis.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Cardio-toraciche e Respiratorie, Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli, Naples, Italy.


Clinical manifestations of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) may depend on a complex interaction between the host and the pathogen. Clinical outcomes of pulmonary tuberculosis are variable, ranging from asymptomatic lifelong infection to parenchymal lung destruction, resulting in cavitary lesions. To investigate the hypothesis that local cellular immune response may affect presentation and outcome in tuberculosis, we performed bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) in lung segments affected by cavitary and non-cavitary tuberculosis. We then correlated the type of cellular response at the level of the involved lung segments with clinical evolution in terms of cavity formation. We found alveolar lymphocytosis in patients with both cavitary and non-cavitary pulmonary tuberculosis, with increased CD4+ lymphocytes in patients with non-cavitary pulmonary tuberculosis. A predominant Th1 immune response has been observed in non-cavitary patients, while cavitary involved segments exhibit the presence of Th2 lymphocyte subsets. These data, while confirming the importance of Th1-type CD4+ cells and IFN-gamma in effective cellular immunity in active pulmonary tuberculosis, also suggest that the presence of Th2 lymphocytes may contribute to tissue necrosis phenomena associated with cavitary evolution of pulmonary tuberculosis. Our observations indicate the importance of the type of local immune response at the site of disease in the development of different clinical characteristics and outcome in pulmonary tuberculosis.

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