Mycobacterial r32-kDa antigen-specific T-cell responses correlate with successful treatment and a heightened anti-microbial response in human leprosy patients

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Immunological characterization of mycobacterial peptides may help not only in the preparation of a vaccine for leprosy but also in developing in vitro T-cell assays that could perhaps be used as an in vitro correlate for treatment outcome. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the use of Mycobacterium bovis recombinant 32-kDa protein (r32-kDa) antigen-stimulated T-cell assay as a surrogate marker for treatment outcome and monitor vitamin D receptor (VDR)-mediated anti-microbial responses during multidrug therapy (MDT) in leprosy.


Newly diagnosed tuberculoid and lepromatous leprosy patients were enrolled and followed up during their course of MDT at 6 and 12 months. IFN-γ, IL-10, IL-17 and IL-23 levels in culture supernatants and expression of VDR, TLR2, LL37 and DEFB in r32-kDa-stimulated PBMCs were measured. Controls comprised household contacts (HHCs) and healthy endemic subjects (HCs).


Significant differences were observed in the levels of IFN-γ, IL-17, IL-23, VDR and anti-microbial peptides LL37 and DEFB after treatment and when compared with that of HHCs and HCs, respectively.


These findings suggest that responses to r32-kDa antigen reflect an improved immunological and anti-microbial response in leprosy patients during therapy, thereby indicating its potential use as an immune correlate in the treatment of leprosy patients.

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