Infect Immun 2015 May 9;83(5):2118-26. Epub 2015 Mar 9.
Department of Infectious Disease Immunology, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark
Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) increases susceptibility to infectious diseases, including tuberculosis (TB), but it is not clear how PEM influences vaccine-promoted immunity to TB. We demonstrate that PEM during low-level steady-state TB infection in a mouse model results in rapid relapse of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, as well as increased pathology, in both Mycobacterium bovis BCG-vaccinated and unvaccinated animals. PEM did not change the overall numbers of CD4 T cells in BCG-vaccinated animals but resulted in an almost complete loss of antigen-specific cytokine production. Furthermore, there was a change in cytokine expression characterized by a gradual loss of multifunctional antigen-specific CD4 T cells and an increased proportion of effector cells expressing gamma interferon and tumor necrosis factor alpha (IFN-γ(+) TNF-α(+) and IFN-γ(+) cells). PEM during M. tuberculosis infection completely blocked the protection afforded by the H56-CAF01 subunit vaccine, and this was associated with a very substantial loss of the interleukin-2-positive memory CD4 T cells promoted by this vaccine. Similarly, PEM during the vaccination phase markedly reduced the H56-CAF01 vaccine response, influencing all cytokine-producing CD4 T cell subsets, with the exception of CD4 T cells positive for TNF-α only. Importantly, this impairment was reversible and resupplementation of protein during infection rescued both the vaccine-promoted T cell response and the protective effect of the vaccine against M. tuberculosis infection.