Purpose: The prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) and the status of M. bovis BCG vaccination may affect host immune responses to M. tb antigens. Understanding of the predominant local M. tb strain and immune signatures induced by its strain-specific antigens may contribute to an improved diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB). The aim of this study was to determine immune responses to M. tb antigen which was identified from the hyper-virulent Beijing/K strain in South Korea. Materials and Methods: Pulmonary TB patients (n=52) and healthy subjects (n=92) including individuals with latent TB infection (n=31) were recruited, and QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube tests were performed. The Beijing/K-antigen specific immune signatures were examined by diluted whole blood assays and multiplex bead arrays in a setting where nationwide BCG vaccination is employed. Results: Statistical analyses demonstrated that three [C-X-C motif chemokine (CXCL10), interleukin (IL)-6, interferon (IFN)-α] of 17 cytokines/chemokines distinguished active cases from healthy controls following stimulation with the Beijing/K-specific anti-gen. IFN-α also differentiated between active diseases and latent TB infection (p<0.01), and the detection rate of TB was dramati-cally increased in combination with IL-6 and CXCL10 at the highest levels of specificity (95–100%). Conclusion: Our data indicate that immune signatures to the M. tb Beijing/K-specific antigen can provide useful information for improved TB diagnostics. The antigen may be developed as a diagnostic marker or a vaccine candidate, particularly in regions where the M. tb Beijing/K strain is endemic.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea grant (NRF-2018R1D1A1A02049260) funded by the Ministry of Education in South Korea.
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