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J Immunol. 2016 Aug 15;197(4):1100-1110. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1501996. Epub 2016 Jul 13.

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Revaccination of Adults with Latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection Induces Long-Lived BCG-Reactive NK Cell Responses.

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South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.
Tuberculosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, OH, U.S.A.
Division of Immunobiology, Departments of Internal Medicine and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University Medical Center, and Center for Vaccine Development, Saint Louis, MO, USA.
Contributed equally


One third of the global population is estimated to be latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis We performed a phase I randomized controlled trial of isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) before revaccination with bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in healthy, tuberculin skin test-positive (≥15-mm induration), HIV-negative South African adults. We hypothesized that preclearance of latent bacilli with IPT modulates BCG immunogenicity following revaccination. Frequencies and coexpression of IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, IL-17, and/or IL-22 in CD4 T cells and IFN-γ-expressing CD8 T, γδ T, CD3(+)CD56(+) NKT-like, and NK cells in response to BCG were measured using whole blood intracellular cytokine staining and flow cytometry. We analyzed 72 participants who were revaccinated with BCG after IPT (n = 33) or without prior IPT (n = 39). IPT had little effect on frequencies or cytokine coexpression patterns of M. tuberculosis- or BCG-specific responses. Revaccination transiently boosted BCG-specific Th1 cytokine-expressing CD4, CD8, and γδ T cells. Despite high frequencies of IFN-γ-expressing BCG-reactive CD3(+)CD56(+) NKT-like cells and CD3(-)CD56(dim) and CD3(-)CD56(hi) NK cells at baseline, BCG revaccination boosted these responses, which remained elevated up to 1 y after revaccination. Such BCG-reactive memory NK cells were induced by BCG vaccination in infants, whereas in vitro IFN-γ expression by NK cells upon BCG stimulation was dependent on IL-12 and IL-18. Our data suggest that isoniazid preclearance of M. tuberculosis bacilli has little effect on the magnitude, persistence, or functional attributes of lymphocyte responses boosted by BCG revaccination. Our study highlights the surprising durability of BCG-boosted memory NKT-like and NK cells expressing antimycobacterial effector molecules, which may be novel targets for tuberculosis vaccines.

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