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Individuals with self-healed tuberculosis from the preantibiotic era offer a unique insight into the natural history of and protective immunity to tuberculosis. In 27 such persons whose tuberculosis self-healed >50 years earlier, circulating Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigen-specific interferon γ (IFN-γ)- and interleukin 2 (IL-2)-secreting T cells were detected ex vivo in 16 and 19 individuals, respectively. The M. tuberculosis-specific T cell cytokine profile was dominated by effector memory T cells that secrete both IFN-γ and IL-2 and included T cells that secrete only IFN-γ or IL-2, suggesting persistence of antigen secreted by viable bacilli. Of 10 individuals with no M. tuberculosis antigen-specific IFN-γ-secreting T cells detectable ex vivo, 7 had evidence of central memory T cells, consistent with clearance of infection.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





1685 - 1689


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, England, Enzyme-Linked Immunospot Assay, Female, Humans, Immunity, Cellular, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-2, Male, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Radiography, Surveys and Questionnaires, T-Lymphocytes, Tuberculosis