Effect of thalidomide on the expression of TNF-alpha m-RNA and synthesis of TNF-alpha in cells from leprosy patients with reversal reaction.
Hypersensitivity reactions called reversal reaction (RR) and erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) occur in leprosy. They are characterized by an increase in tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Thalidomide is an effective treatment for ENL but not RR. Its effectiveness in ENL is attributed to inhibition of TNF-alpha, and this does not explain its failure to treat RR. We assessed thalidomide's effect on TNF-alpha in RR. Mononuclear cells from RR and non-RR patients and healthy individuals were treated with thalidomide and M.leprae (AFB), a cytosol fraction of M. leprae or Dharmendra lepromin. Thalidomide suppressed TNF-alpha, but when some RR patients' cells were stimulated with AFB, it enhanced TNF-alpha.