CD1a and Factor XIIIa Immunohistochemistry in Leprosy: A Possible Role of Dendritic Cells in the Pathogenesis of Mycobacterium leprae Infection

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Leprosy is a curable chronic granulomatous infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae. This organism has a high affinity for skin and peripheral nerve cells. In the evolution of infections, the immune status of patients determines the disease expression. Dendritic cells are antigen-presenting cells that phagocytose particles and microorganisms. In skin, dendritic cells are represented by epidermal Langerhans cells and dermal dendrocytes, which can be identified by expression of CD1a and factor XIIIa (FXIIIa). In the present study, 29 skin samples from patients with tuberculoid (13 biopsies) and lepromatous (16 biopsies) leprosy were analyzed by immunohistochemistry using antibodies to CD1a and FXIIIa. Quantitative analysis of labeling pattern showed a clear predominance of dendritic cells in tuberculoid leprosy. Difference between the number of positive cells of immunohistochemistry for the CD1a and FXIIIa staining observed in this study indicates a role for dendritic cells in the cutaneous response to leprosy. Dendritic cells may be a determinant of the course and clinical expression of the disease.

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