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Infect Immun. 2010 Jul;78(7):3272-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01385-09. Epub 2010 Apr 19.

Human brucellosis is characterized by an intense Th1 profile associated with a defective monocyte function.

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  • 1Laboratorio de Enfermedades del Sistema Inmune y Oncología, Unidad Asociada al CNB-CSIC, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, Spain.


In animal models, a defective Th1 response appears to be critical in the pathogenesis of brucellosis, but the Th1 response in human brucellosis patients remains partially undefined. Peripheral blood from 24 brucellosis patients was studied before and 45 days after antibiotherapy. Twenty-four sex- and age-matched healthy donors were analyzed in parallel. Significantly increased levels of interleukin 1beta (IL-1beta), IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-12p40, gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), but not of IL-10, in serum and/or significantly increased percentages of samples with detectable levels of these cytokines, measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), were found for untreated brucellosis patients, but these levels were reduced and/or normalized after treatment. Flow cytometry studies showed that the intracytoplasmic expression of IFN-gamma, IL-2, and TNF-alpha, but not that of IL-4, by phorbol myristate-activated CD4(+) CD3(+) and CD8(+) CD3(+) T lymphocytes was significantly increased in untreated brucellosis patients and was also partially normalized after antibiotherapy. The percentage of phagocytic cells, the mean phagocytic activity per cell, and the phagocytic indices for monocytes at baseline were defective and had only partially reverted at follow-up. T lymphocytes from untreated brucellosis patients are activated in vivo and show Th1 cytokine production polarization, with strikingly high serum IFN-gamma levels. In spite of this Th1 environment, we found deficient effector phagocytic activity in peripheral blood monocytes.

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