Human pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a worldwide public health problem. In resistant individuals, control of the infection mainly requires development of a Th1 cell immune response with production of cytokines, of which interferon-g (IFN-g)plays an important role. Several antigens from Mycobacterium tuberculosis
complex has been described for use in vaccine development or for diagnostic purposes, however little evaluation has been done in endemic area for TB. The proliferative and IFN-g human T cell immune responses, to four recombinant proteins (MBP-3, NarL, MT-10.3, 16 kDa) and PPD, of 38 Brazilian TB patients (6 untreated and 32 treated) and 67 controls (38 positive and 29 negative tuberculin skin test - TST) were compared. The highest reactivity mean rate was obtained with PPD followed by 16 kDa in TB patients. While most of the patients (87%) and controls (> 64%) respond to the PPD, 16kDa was more specifically recognized (> 21%) although less sensitive (54%). When TB patients were divided according to treatment status, opposite to PPD, higher average level of IFN-γ was induced by 16kDa in untreated (505 pg/ml) compared to treated TB patients and TST+ (269.8 pg/ml x 221.6pg/ml, respectively), although the difference was not significant. These data show that in contrast with the other recombinant proteins, the stimulatory potency of 16kDa to induce proliferative and INF-g response was more effective and is more recognized by active TB untreated patients, eliciting in control individuals a more selective immune response than PPD.