Leprosy reactions: humoral and cellular immune responses to M. leprae, 65kDa, 28kDa, and 18 kDa antigens.
This study examines the immune responses against some stress proteins of Mycobacterium leprae in leprosy patients with and without leprosy reactions. Leprosy patients showed a higher level of antibodies to all antigens compared to healthy controls. The antibody response to 18kDa antigen was significantly higher in patients with Type 1 reaction compared to those of TT or borderline patients without Type 1 reaction, or those with Type 2 reaction. Borderline (BT/BL), lepromatous (LL) and patients with reactions (Type 1 and Type 2) had higher levels of antibodies to M. leprae soluble extract (MLSE) and 65kDa than those of the tuberculoid (TT) group. LL, borderline patients, and patients with Type 1 reaction had a higher level of antibody to 28kDa than those of healthy controls. However, no significant differences could be observed in antibody response to these antigens (MLSE, 65kDa, and 28kDa) between patients with reaction and without reaction. A significant proportion of TT/BT patients showed positive lymphoproliferative response to MLSE compared to BL/LL patients. In addition, the lymphoproliferative response to MLSE was significantly greater in patients with Type 1 reaction compared to patients without reaction. No difference in proliferative response to 65kDa could be observed in any of these groups. The finding of high levels of antibodies against stress proteins in patients with Type 1 reactions, especially to 18 kDa antigen, along with a heightened lymphoproliferative response to MLSE is suggestive of a coexistence of cell mediated and humoral immunity in leprosy patients during Type 1 reactions. On the other hand, in Type 2 reactions no significant role of stress proteins could be demonstrated except a heightened lymphoproliferative response to the 28 kDa antigen.