Nature Reviews Immunology
August 2012 Vol 12 No 8
The immunological life cycle of tuberculosis
Joel D. Ernst
p581 | doi:10.1038/nri3259
Here, Joel Ernst proposes that there are distinct stages in the immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis that form an ‘immunological life cycle’. The description of this framework can help the understanding and study of immunity to tuberculosis in humans and animal models.
Immune responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis are only partially effective; they drive the bacteria into a latent state, but rarely eliminate them. Unfortunately, the latent state of M. tuberculosis is reversible, and reactivation tuberculosis is the source of most transmission. Studies in animal models and in humans have not yet yielded a comprehensive picture of the mechanisms or correlates of immunity to M. tuberculosis infection, or of why immunity fails to eradicate the pathogen. This Review proposes that there are distinct stages in the immune response to M. tuberculosis that form an ‘immunological life cycle’. It is hoped that this thesis will provide a framework for investigation to understand immunity to M. tuberculosis and to guide tuberculosis vaccine discovery and development.