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Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1998 Sep;88(3):226-31.

The possible role of interleukin (IL)-12 and interferon-gamma-inducing factor/IL-18 in protection against experimental Mycobacterium leprae infection in mice.

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Leprosy Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, 4-2-1 Aoba-cho, Higashimurayama-shi, Tokyo, 189-0002, Japan.


Cell-mediated immunity participates in host defense against mycobacterial infection. Both interleukin 12 (IL-12) and interferon-gamma-inducing factor (IGIF/IL-18), produced mainly by macrophages, play a critical role in expression of cell-mediated immunity. To investigate the role of IL-12 and IGIF/IL-18 in vivo, we examined cytokine profile, bacterial growth, and the potential benefit of cytokine therapy in susceptible and resistant mice infected with Mycobacterium leprae. The early expression of IL-12 p40 and IGIF/IL-18 at the site of inoculation was found in resistant mice 3-72 h after the infection, but not in susceptible mice. Both strains of mice did not show expression of IFN-gamma and IL-4. IL-12 administration resulted in a significant reduction of bacterial counts in mice with established M. leprae infection. The results imply that susceptible mice exhibit decreased expression of type 1 helper T (Th1) response without reciprocal increased Th2 response and show responsiveness to exogenous IL-12. IL-12 therapy may be a possible rationale for treatment of M. leprae infection.

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