Cytokines as biomarkers to monitoring the impact of multidrug therapy in immune response of leprosy patients

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Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic infectious disease of the skin and nerves, caused by the intracellular bacilli Mycobacterium leprae. It is characterized by a spectrum of clinical forms depending on the host's immune response to M. leprae. Patients with tuberculoid (TT) leprosy have strong cell-mediated immunity (CMI) with elimination of the bacilli, whereas patients with lepromatous (LL) leprosy exhibit defective CMI to M. leprae. Despite advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of leprosy and the development of new therapeutic strategies, there is a need for the identification of biomarkers which be used for early diagnosis and to discrimination between different forms of the disease, as prognostic markers. Here, we analyzed the serum levels of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p70, IL-13, IL-17A, IFN-γ and TNF in order to address the contribution of these cytokines in late phase of M. leprae infection, and the impact of multidrug therapy (MDT). Our results demonstrated that patients of LL group presented higher expression of serum levels of inflammatory cytokines before MDT, while TT patients presented a balance between inflammatory and regulatory cytokines. MDT changes the profile of serum cytokines in M. leprae infected patients, as evidenced by the cytokine network, especially in TT patients. LL patients displayed a multifaceted cytokine system characterized by strong connecting axes involving inflammatory/regulatory molecules, while TT patients showed low involvement of regulatory cytokines in network overall. Cytokines can be identified as good biomarkers of the impact of MDT on the immune system and the effectiveness of treatment.HighlightsCytokines are biomarkers of immune response and efficacy of multidrug therapy.Leprosy shows an unbalance between inflammatory and regulatory cytokines.Multidrug therapy leads to distinct impact in cytokine profile of leprosy patients.

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