Leprosy is an infectious and contagious spectral disease accompanied by a series of immunological events triggered by the host response to the aetiologic agent, Mycobacterium leprae
. The induction and maintenance of the immune/inflammatory response in leprosy are linked to multiple cell interactions and soluble factors, primarily through the action of cytokines. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the serum levels of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α and its soluble receptors (sTNF-R1 and sTNF-R2) in leprosy patients at different stages of multidrug treatment (MDT) in comparison with non-infected individuals and to determine their role as putative biomarkers of the severity of leprosy or the treatment response. ELISA was used to measure the levels of these molecules in 30 healthy controls and 37 leprosy patients at the time of diagnosis and during and after MDT. Our results showed increases in the serum levels of TNF-α and sTNF-R2 in infected individuals in comparison with controls. The levels of TNF-α, but not sTNF-R2, decreased with treatment. The current results corroborate previous reports of elevated serum levels of TNF-α in leprosy and suggest a role for sTNF-R2 in the control of this cytokine during MDT.