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J Infect Dis. 1992 Mar;165(3):506-12.

Gamma delta T lymphocytes in human tuberculosis.

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Department of Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033.


The manifestations of tuberculous infection reflect the immune response to infection. Most healthy tuberculin reactors develop protective immunity; tuberculous pleuritis reflects a resistant response manifest by mild disease, whereas advanced pulmonary and miliary tuberculosis reflect ineffective immunity. The role of gamma delta T cells was assessed in tuberculous infection by evaluating expansion of these cells from blood mononuclear cells after stimulation with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. After culture in vitro, the percentages of gamma delta+ cells were significantly greater in patients with protective and resistant immunity (tuberculin reactors, 25% +/- 4%; tuberculous pleuritis, 30% +/- 7%) than in those with ineffective immunity (advanced pulmonary tuberculosis, 9% +/- 3%; miliary tuberculosis, 2% +/- 1%). In leprosy, expansion of gamma delta+ cells was greater in immunologically resistant tuberculoid patients (32% +/- 4%) than in Mycobacterium leprae-unresponsive lepromatous patients (9% +/- 2%). M. tuberculosis-reactive gamma delta T cell lines produced interferon-gamma, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interleukin-3, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, cytokines that activate macrophages and may contribute to mycobacterial elimination. These findings suggest that gamma delta T cells contribute to immune resistance against M. tuberculosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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