Study shows hormonal-immune changes may explain response to tuberculosis treatment

Friday 25 August 2017

A Mater Researcher has found that hormones, in conjunction with immune markers, may be valuable in determining those who will not respond to treatment for Tuberculosis (TB).

Mater Research Institute—University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) researcher and Mater Foundation Fellow Associate Professor Katharina Ronacher’s study1 demonstrated that hormone concentrations changed as a result of active TB and continued to change during TB treatment.  The study also showed that the hormone profiles of individuals, taken prior to treatment, differed between those who were successfully cured and those who failed treatment.

“This study highlights the intricate relationships between the endocrine and immune systems during TB and supports the suggestion that hormones in conjunction with cytokines may be valuable as biomarkers for treatment response,” A/Prof Ronacher said.

TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), is a major global health threat, particularly in developing countries and continues to claim approximately two million lives every year. According to the World Health Organisation 60 per cent of TB cases come from only six countries which include Indonesia, China and India.

“The aim of this study was to investigate immune and endocrine responses during the course of TB chemotherapy in patients with successful and unsuccessful treatment outcomes,” A/Prof Ronacher said.

“In an attempt to understand the immune–endocrine interaction during TB treatment, we investigated whether changes observed in hormone concentrations correlated with concentrations of different immune markers measured at each of the time points. We aimed to determine whether the interactions between immune markers and hormones were different in the two treatment outcome groups.”

“Relationships between endocrine and inflammatory markers and the biological pathways involved differed between cured and failed treatment patients even prior to antibiotic therapy.”

This suggests that some individuals have an innate imbalance of the hormone and immune system, making it more difficult for them to be cured once they start antibiotics. The findings of this study are likely to be applicable to other infectious diseases and provides one explanation as to why some people respond better to treatment than others.

“This study is unique in that it is the first treatment response study that investigates alterations in hormone concentrations in patients with two different treatment outcomes, namely cured and treatment failure. We show that the hormone and immune profiles are distinctly different between patients who will be cured and those who won’t,” A/Prof Ronacher said.

“These results emphasise the complex interaction between the endocrine and the immune systems during TB treatment and suggest that hormone concentrations in conjunction with inflammatory marker concentrations may be useful in predicting unfavourable treatment outcomes.”

1 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00690