Volume 86, Issue 5
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



T regulatory cells (Tregs) play an important role in the mechanism of host's failure to control pathogen dissemination in severe forms of different chronic granulomatous diseases, but their role in leprosy has not yet been elucidated; 28 newly diagnosed patients (16 patients with lepromatous leprosy and 12 patients with tuberculoid leprosy) and 6 healthy -exposed individuals (contacts) were studied. Tregs were quantified by flow cytometry (CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3+) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells stimulated with a antigenic preparation and phytohemagglutinin as well as in skin lesions by immunohistochemistry. The lymphoproliferative (LPR), interleukin-10 (IL-10), and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) responses of the -stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells and the expression of IL-10, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) were also determined. We show that antigens induced significantly lower LPR but significantly higher Treg numbers in lepromatous than tuberculoid patients and contacts. Mitogen-induced LPR and Treg frequencies were not significantly different among the three groups. Tregs were also more frequent in lepromatous patients, and this finding was paralleled by increased expression of the antiinflammatory molecules IL-10 and CTLA-4 but not TGF-β. In lepromatous patients, Tregs were intermingled with vacuolized hystiocyte infiltrates all over the lesion, whereas in tuberculoid patients, Tregs were rare. Our results suggest that Tregs are present in increased numbers, and they may have a pathogenic role in leprosy patients harboring uncontrolled bacillary multiplication but not in those individuals capable of limiting growth.


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  • Received : 07 Feb 2012
  • Accepted : 14 Feb 2012
  • Published online : 01 May 2012

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