While T cell responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) have been extensively studied, the role of B-cells and antibodies are less well characterised. The aim of this study was to assess levels of Mtb-specific IgG + plasmablasts across the Mtb infection spectrum.
Patients with active TB were analysed at baseline and 6 months of therapy (n = 20).Their exposed household contacts (HHC) included individuals with latent TB infection (LTBI; n = 20); evident at baseline; individuals with a negative Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) at baseline who became; positive at 6 months (converters; n = 11) and those who remained negative (non-converters; n = 10). An e x-vivo B-cell ELISPOT was performed to analyse plasmablast responses.
Frequencies of ESAT-6/CFP-10 (EC)- but not Whole Cell Lysate (WCL)-specific plasmablasts were significantly higher in patients with active TB pre-treatment compared to post-treatment (p = 0.002) and compared to HHC with LTBI (p < 0.0001). Conversely, total IgG + plasmablasts were significantly decreased in TB patients at baseline. No difference was seen in levels of plasmablasts between TST converters and non-converters at baseline.
We show that EC-specific plasmablast levels are differentially modulated during TB infection and disease, with levels highest during active TB. These data provide new insights into TB biomarker development and avenues for novel immune interventions.

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