The immunological mechanisms required to engender resistance have been defined in few infectious diseases of man, and the role of specific cytokines is unclear. Leprosy presents clinically as a spectrum in which resistance correlates with cell-mediated immunity to the pathogen. To assess in situ cytokine patterns, messenger RNA extracted from leprosy skin biopsy specimens was amplified by the polymerase chain reaction with 14 cytokine-specific primers. In lesions of the resistant form of the disease, messenger RNAs coding for interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma were most evident. In contrast, messenger RNAs for interleukin-4, interleukin-5, and interleukin-10 predominated in the multibacillary form. Thus, resistance and susceptibility were correlated with distinct patterns of cytokine production.

Stay Connected to Science