Intestinal helminth co-infection has a negative impact on both anti-Mycobacterium tuberculosis immunity and clinical response to tuberculosis therapy

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SummaryThe impact of intestinal helminth infection on Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB)-specific immune responses during active tuberculosis (TB) is not known. We investigated the role of intestinal helminth infection in anti-MTB immunity by evaluating both cellular phenotype and cytokine profiles in patients with TB and patients with concomitant TB and intestinal helminth infection (TB + Helm) during TB therapy. Twenty-seven per cent of TB patients enrolled for the study were co-infected with at least one intestinal helminth. At baseline, absolute frequencies of leucocytes, monocytes and eosinophils from TB and TB + Helm patients differed from healthy subjects. Concomitant intestinal helminth infection in TB + Helm patients had a negative impact (P < 0·05) on absolute frequencies of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, natural killer (NK) T and CD4+ CD25high T cell subsets when compared to either TB patients or healthy controls. Differences in CD4+ T cell frequencies were accompanied by lower interferon (IFN)-γ and elevated and sustained interleukin (IL)-10 levels in whole blood (WB) cultures from TB + Helm compared to TB patients. In addition to a depressed anti-MTB immunity, TB + Helm patients also presented with more severe radiological pulmonary disease, with a significant difference (P = 0·013) in the number of involved lung zones at the end of TB treatment. The above data may indicate that concomitant intestinal helminth infection in patients with newly diagnosed TB skews their cytokine profile toward a T helper 2 response, which could favour persistent MTB infection and a more protracted clinical course of the disease.

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