BALB/c mice with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) develop a T helper cell type 1 that temporarily controls bacterial growth. Bacterial proliferation increases, accompanied by decreasing expression of interferon (IFN)-γ, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Activation of dendritic cells (DCs) is delayed. Intratracheal administration of only one dose of recombinant adenoviruses encoding granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (AdGM-CSF) 1 day before Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection produced a significant decrease of pulmonary bacterial loads, higher activated DCs and increased expression of TNF-α, IFN-γ and iNOS. When AdGM-CSF was given in female mice B6D2F1 (C57BL/6J X DBA/2J) infected with a low Mtb dose to induce chronic infection similar to latent infection and corticosterone was used to induce reactivation, a very low bacilli burden in lungs was detected, and the same effect was observed in healthy mice co-housed with mice infected with mild and highly virulent bacteria in a model of transmissibility. Thus, GM-CSF is a significant cytokine in the immune protection against Mtb and gene therapy with AdGM-CSF increased protective immunity when administered in a single dose 1 day before Mtb infection in a model of progressive disease, and when used to prevent reactivation of latent infection or transmission.