Background. Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) is a major risk factor for the development of active pulmonary tuberculosis, although the immunological mechanisms underlying this interaction remain unexplored. The influence of poorly controlled diabetes on pathogen-specific T-helper 1 (Th1) and T-helper 17 (Th17) responses have not been examined.
Methods. To identify the role of Th1 and Th17 cells in tuberculosis with coincident DM, we examined mycobacteria-specific immune responses in the whole blood of individuals who had tuberculosis with DM and compared them to those in individuals who had tuberculosis without DM.
Results. Tuberculosis coincident with DM is characterized by elevated frequencies of monofunctional and dual-functional CD4+ Th1 cells following Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigen stimulation and elevated frequencies of Th17 subsets at both baseline and following antigen stimulation. This was associated with increased systemic (plasma) levels of both Th1 and Th17 cytokines and decreased baseline frequencies of natural regulatory T cells but not interleukin 10 or transforming growth factor β.
Conclusions. Therefore, our data reveal that tuberculosis in persons with DM is characterized by elevated frequencies of Th1 and Th17 cells, indicating that DM is associated with an alteration in the immune response to tuberculosis, leading to a biased induction of Th1- and Th17-mediated cellular responses and likely contributing to increased immune pathology in M. tuberculosis infection.