Antigen-Specific Immunosuppression in Paracoccidioidomycosis

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  • Immunogenetic and Experimental Transplantation Laboratory and Medical Mycology Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Emilio Ribas Infectology Institute of Sao Paulo, Infectious Disease Clinic, Clinics Hospital, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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To characterize the immune dysfunction associated with paracoccidioidomycosis, we studied the in vitro lymphocyte reactivity to phytohemagglutinin (PHA), pokeweed mitogen (PWM), a Candida albicans antigen (CMA), and a Paracoccidioides brasiliensis antigen (PbAg) in 32 patients with the acute and the chronic form of the disease before or during the initial phase of treatment and after clinical cure. We also studied, as controls, 30 healthy individuals, 15 of them immune to P. brasiliensis. Results showed a strong hyporesponsiveness to the PbAg while responses to mitogens and CMA were comparable with those of controls. Patients with the acute form of the disease (usually more severe) had more marked PbAg hyporesponsiveness than those with the chronic form. After patients' clinical cure, PbAg proliferative responses were similar to controls and greater than those seen before pretreatment. Changes in other parameters were also seen in the treated patients: skin test anergy to paracoccidioidin, high levels of anti-P. brasiliensis antibodies, leukocytosis, and eosinophilia. These changes were usually more intense in patients with the acute form of the disease. The post-treatment CD4+, CD8+, and total lymphocyte counts were similar to those of controls. Correlation between these parameters and the lymphoproliferative responses to the various stimuli was only found with PbAg: PbAg responses correlated inversely with eosinophil and anti-P. brasiliensis antibody levels. Overall, our results demonstrate an antigen-specific cellular immunity defect, which is reversible with treatment and possibly related to a T helper cell-2 pattern of immune response during active disease.