Altered ratio of IFN-γ/IL-10 in patients with drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and HIV-tuberculosis immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome

We have described a clinical relationship between HIV-Tuberculosis Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (TB-IRIS) and anti-tubercular drug resistance. Here we studied the immune response of TB-IRIS patients from whom a drug-resistant (n = 11) or drug-susceptible (n = 25) Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) strain was isolated after presenting with TB-IRIS. ELISpot analysis and multiplex cytokine analysis of the supernatant collected from peripheral blood mononuclear cells stimulated overnight with the heat-killed H37Rv MTB laboratory strain was used. Although there was no statistical difference in IFN-gamma ELISpot responses between the two groups, the results point towards higher bacterial load in the drug-resistant patients, possibly due to failed therapy. The ratio between secreted IFN-gamma/IL-10 and IL-2/IL-10 was significantly lower in TB-IRIS patients in whom the cause of TB was a drug-resistant strain compared to those with a fully sensitive strain (p = 0.02). Since host immune responses are dependent on the bacterial load, we hypothesise that the impaired cytokine balance is likely to be caused by the poorly controlled bacterial growth in these patients.