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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2013;783:141-63. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6111-1_8.

Antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells and protective immunity to tuberculosis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


The continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic and the spread of multi-drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis has led to the perpetuation of the worldwide tuberculosis epidemic. While M. bovis BCG is widely used as a vaccine, it lacks efficacy in preventing pulmonary tuberculosis in adults [1]. To combat this ongoing scourge, vaccine development for tuberculosis is a global priority. Most infected individuals develop long-lived protective immunity, which controls and contains M. tuberculosis in a T cell-dependent manner. An effective T cells response determines whether the infection resolves or develops into clinically evident disease. Consequently, there is great interest in determining which T cells subsets mediate anti-mycobacterial immunity, delineating their effector functions, and evaluating whether vaccination can elicit these T cells subsets and induce protective immunity. CD4(+) T cells are critical for resistance to M. tuberculosis in both humans and rodent models. CD4(+) T cells are required to control the initial infection as well as to prevent recrudescence in both humans and mice [2]. While it is generally accepted that class II MHC-restricted CD4(+) T cells are essential for immunity to tuberculosis, M. tuberculosis infection elicits CD8(+) T cells responses in both people and in experimental animals. CD8(+) T cells are also recruited to the lung during M. tuberculosis infection and are found in the granulomas of infected people. Thus, how CD8(+) T cells contribute to overall immunity to tuberculosis and whether antigens recognized by CD8(+) T cells would enhance the efficacy of vaccine strategies continue to be important questions.

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