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BACKGROUND: Changes in the phenotype and function of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis)-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets in response to stage of infection may allow discrimination between active tuberculosis and latent tuberculosis infection. METHODS: A prospective comparison of M. tuberculosis-specific cellular immunity in subjects with active tuberculosis and latent tuberculosis infection, with and without human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) coinfection. Polychromatic flow cytometry was used to measure CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subset phenotype and secretion of interferon γ (IFN-γ), interleukin 2 (IL-2), and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). RESULTS: Frequencies of CD4+ and CD8+ cells secreting IFN-γ-only, TNF-α-only and dual IFN-γ/TNF-α were greater in active tuberculosis vs latent tuberculosis infection. All M. tuberculosis-specific CD4+ subsets, with the exception of IL-2-only cells, switched from central to effector memory phenotype in active tuberculosis vs latent tuberculosis infection, accompanied by a reduction in IL-7 receptor α (CD127) expression. The frequency of PPDspecific CD4+ TNF-α-only-secreting T cells with an effector phenotype accurately distinguished active tuberculosis from latent tuberculosis infection with an area under the curve of 0.99, substantially more discriminatory than measurement of function alone. CONCLUSIONS: Combined measurement of T-cell phenotype and function defines a highly discriminatory biomarker of tuberculosis disease activity. Unlocking the diagnostic and monitoring potential of this combined approach now requires validation in large-scale prospective studies.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





952 - 968


Adult, Biomarkers, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Female, HIV, HIV Infections, Humans, Immunophenotyping, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-2, Latent Tuberculosis, Male, Middle Aged, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Phenotype, Prospective Studies, Receptors, Interleukin-7, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha