Systemic and local interferon-gamma production following Mycobacterium ulcerans infection.
Schipper HS., Rutgers B., Huitema MG., Etuaful SN., Westenbrink BD., Limburg PC., Timens W., van der Werf TS.
Buruli ulcer disease (BUD) is an emerging predominantly tropical disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. The initial pre-ulcerative skin lesion often breaks down into an ulcer with undermined edges. Healing is common but may require considerable time, and scarring often results in functional limitations. Considerable evidence has now emerged that patients with early BUD cannot mount a sufficient protective T helper 1 (Th1) cell response to M. ulcerans, but uncertainty remains as to whether immune protection is restored over time. This study investigates the Th1 cell response of patients with various stages of BUD on mycobacterial antigens. We measured interferon (IFN)-gamma levels after ex vivo whole blood stimulation with tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD), and compared the Th1 cell response of individuals with pre-ulcerative, ulcerative and healed BUD as well as healthy controls. Moreover, the systemic Th1 cell response was related to histopathological features in the various stages of surgically resected BUD lesions. We show that patients with ulcerative and healed BUD produce significantly higher IFN-gamma levels after mycobacterial ex vivo whole blood stimulation than healthy controls, and that patients with a granulomatous tissue response produce higher IFN-gamma levels than individuals without. We therefore suggest that the mounted Th1 cell response in ulcerative BUD patients might be related to their histopathological tissue response.