Polyfunctional T cells in human tuberculosis

Authors

  • Katalin A. Wilkinson,

    1. MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK
    2. Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative, Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
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  • Robert J. Wilkinson

    Corresponding author
    1. MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK
    2. Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative, Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
    3. Division of Medicine, Imperial College London, UK
    • Room 3.03.05 Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative, Wolfson Pavilion, Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory 7925, South Africa Fax: +27-21-406-6796
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Abstract

Studies of chronic viral infections have highlighted the phenotypic and functional heterogeneity of antigen-specific T cells and suggested that polyfunctional T cells that secrete multiple cytokines and are able to proliferate on encounter with antigen are more likely than single cytokine secretors to represent correlates of protective immunity. These findings have prompted the evaluation of such T–cell responses in chronic bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis (TB). A number of studies in humans suggested that polyfunctional T cells may indeed be involved in mediating protection in TB; however, studies that question these findings are also emerging, including a study published in this issue of the European Journal of Immunology. These differing findings highlight the difficulties of studying human immunity to TB and the need for polyfunctional T cells to be evaluated in longitudinal studies as opposed to case-control analyses.

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