Evaluation of various cytokines elicited during antigen-specific recall as potential risk indicators for the differential development of leprosy.
Leprosy is a dermato-neurological disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae infection that manifests across a wide range of clinical and immunological outcomes. Diagnosis is still currently based on clinical manifestations and simple tests are needed. This study investigated whether biomarkers induced by defined M. leprae proteins in 24-h whole blood assays (WBA) could discriminate active leprosy patients from at-risk contacts. Newly diagnosed, untreated paucibacillary (PB; tuberculoid leprosy/borderline tuberculoid [TT/BT]) and multibacillary (MB; borderline lepromatous/lepromatous leprosy [BL/LL]) leprosy patients, as well as healthy household contacts (HHC) of MB patients, were recruited in central western Brazil (Goiânia/Goiás). Cell-based responses to the ML0276, ML1623, ML0405, ML1632, 92f, and ML1011 antigens were measured by Luminex 14-plex assays detecting eotaxin, IFNγ, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p70, IL-15, IL-17A, IL-23, IL-31, IP-10, and TNFα. Our data reinforce that IFNγ is currently the best indicator of the antigen-specific cellular immune response of TT/BT leprosy and demonstrate that the same antigens promote the secretion of IL-4 in blood from BL/LL leprosy patients. While none of the biomarkers tested could discriminate leprosy patients from HHC, our data indicate that, although most HHC antigen-specific responses are qualitatively similar to TT/BT patients, some HHC can respond similarly to BL/LL patients.