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Mechanisms of Mycobacterium leprae-specific T-cell deficiency in lepromatous leprosy.
Patients suffering from lepromatous leprosy fail to develop an efficient cell-mediated immunity towards Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent. The mechanism of such a specific T-cell tolerance to the bacillus remains a key question in the pathophysiology of leprosy. Macrophages do not show any intrinsic defect in phagocytizing and killing M. leprae or in presenting antigen to helper T-cells. On the other hand, M. leprae-reactive helper T-cells do persist in lepromatous patients, but their activation appears to prevented by active suppressor mechanisms, involving both suppressor T-cells and macrophages. The target of this specific suppression could be the interleukin 2-producing T-cell subset. A better molecular definition of M. leprae antigens, both by monoclonal antibodies and T-cell clones, should open new perspectives for further analysis of the regulation of immune responses to M. leprae.
Immune Tolerance, Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes/immunology, Leprosy, Lepromatous/etiology, Leprosy, Lepromatous/immunology, Macrophages/immunology, Mycobacterium leprae/immunology, T-Lymphocytes/immunology
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