The prevalence of tuberculosis among men who work in the gold mines of South Africa is among the highest in the world, but a fraction of miners demonstrate consistently negative results upon tuberculin skin test (TST) and IFN-γ release assay (IGRA). We hypothesized that these “resisters” (RSTRs) may display unconventional immune signatures of exposure to M. tuberculosis (M.tb).
In a cohort of RSTRs and matched controls with latent TB infection (LTBI), we profiled the functional breadth of M.tb antigen-specific T cell and antibody responses using multi-parameter flow cytometry and systems serology, respectively.
RSTRs and LTBI controls both exhibited IFN-γ independent T-cell and IgG antibody responses to M.tb-specific antigens ESAT-6 and CFP-10. Antigen-specific antibody Fc galactosylation and sialylation were higher among RSTRs. In a combined T-cell and antibody analysis, M.tb lysate-stimulated TNF secretion by T cells correlated positively with levels of purified protein derivative-specific IgG. A multivariate model of the combined data was able to differentiate RSTR and LTBI subjects.
IFN-γ independent immune signatures of exposure to M.tb, which are not detected by approved clinical diagnostics, are readily detectable in an occupational cohort uniquely characterized by intense and long-term infection pressure. Further, TNF may mediate a coordinated response between M.tb-specific T-cells and B-cells.
This work was supported by the US National Institutes of Health (R01-AI124348 to Boom, Stein, and Hawn; R01-AI125189 and R01-AI146072 to Seshadri; and 75N93019C00071 to Fortune, Alter, Seshadri, and Boom), the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (Davies), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1151836 and OPP1109001 to Hawn; and OPP1151840 to Alter), Mass Life Science Foundation (Fortune), and Good Ventures Fund (Fortune).