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Keywords:

  • tuberculosis;
  • helminth;
  • BCG;
  • lymphoproliferation;
  • interferon-gamma

The protective efficacy of BCG vaccination against pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is highly variable in different populations. The reason remains to be elucidated. This study aims to investigate the possible effect of intestinal helminths on the immune response to PPD in naturally immunized or BCG-vaccinated humans. The study population was assessed for helminthic infection and those found to be positive were randomly assigned to either an albendazole treatment group or a control group who received a placebo. The immune response to PPD was compared between the two groups. In addition, subjects who were tuberculin skin test-negative in both groups were BCG vaccinated and later on tested for PPD-specific responses. Albendazole induced elimination/or reduction in intestinal worms resulting in a significant improvement in T cell proliferation and in interferon-gamma production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) stimulated with PPD. Moreover, BCG vaccination significantly improved PPD-specific immune responses in the treated group but not in the placebo group. The differences in the in vivo skin test responses were not significant. The data show that cellular immune responses to PPD are reduced in persons with concurrent helminthic infections, perhaps reflecting a lowered resistance to mycobacterial infections. This could explain, at least in part, the reduced efficacy of BCG against TB in helminth-endemic areas of the world.