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1.  Cardiovascular risk and endothelial function in people living with HIV/AIDS: design of the multi-site, longitudinal EndoAfrica study in the Western Cape Province of South Africa 
There is growing evidence of an interaction between HIV-infection, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Epidemiological studies in Europe and North America have been observing a shift towards an increased incidence of coronary heart disease and acute myocardial infarctions in HIV-infected populations compared to the general population even after adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Despite South Africa (and sub-Saharan Africa, SSA) being regarded as the epicentre of the global HIV epidemic, very little is known about the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and precursors of vascular disease in HIV-infected populations in this region. The knowledge gap is further widened by the paucity of data from prospective studies. We present the rationale, objectives and key methodological features of the EndoAfrica study, which aims to determine whether HIV-infection and ART are associated with altered cardiovascular risk and changes in vascular endothelial structure and function in adults living in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.
In this longitudinal study, comprehensive cardiovascular assessments of HIV-negative and HIV-positive (with and without ART) study participants are performed by clinical and biochemical screening for traditional cardiovascular risk factors and biomarkers of CVD. Vascular and endothelial function is determined by brachial artery flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), carotid-intima-thickness (IMT) measurements and quantitative retinal blood vessel analyses, complemented by vascular endothelial biomarker assays. Finally, we aim to statistically determine whether HIV-infection and/or ART are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and vascular endothelial dysfunction, and determine whether there is progression/regression in these endpoints 18 months after the baseline assessments.
The EndoAfrica study provides a unique opportunity to recruit a cohort of HIV-infected patients and HIV-negative controls who will be comprehensively and longitudinally assessed for cardiovascular risk and disease profile with vascular endothelial function as a potentially important intermediate cardiovascular phenotype. To our knowledge, it is the first time that such a systematic study has been established in the context of SSA and South Africa.
PMCID: PMC5219697  PMID: 28061822
HIV; Antiretroviral therapy; Cardiovascular risk factors; Vascular endothelial function; South Africa
2.  A Blueprint to Address Research Gaps in the Development of Biomarkers for Pediatric Tuberculosis 
Childhood tuberculosis contributes significantly to the global tuberculosis disease burden but remains challenging to diagnose due to inadequate methods of pathogen detection in paucibacillary pediatric samples and lack of a child-specific host biomarker to identify disease. Accurately diagnosing tuberculosis in children is required to improve case detection, surveillance, healthcare delivery, and effective advocacy. In May 2014, the National Institutes of Health convened a workshop including researchers in the field to delineate priorities to address this research gap. This blueprint describes the consensus from the workshop, identifies critical research steps to advance this field, and aims to catalyze efforts toward harmonization and collaboration in this area.
PMCID: PMC4583573  PMID: 26409279
tuberculosis; children; diagnosis; biomarker; blueprint
3.  Bacterial Loads Measured by the Xpert MTB/RIF Assay as Markers of Culture Conversion and Bacteriological Cure in Pulmonary TB 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0160062.
Biomarkers are needed to monitor tuberculosis (TB) treatment and predict treatment outcomes. We evaluated the Xpert MTB/RIF (Xpert) assay as a biomarker for TB treatment during and at the end of the 24 weeks therapy.
Sputum from 108 HIV-negative, culture-positive pulmonary TB patients was analyzed using Xpert at time points before and during anti-TB therapy. Results were compared against culture. Direct Xpert cycle-threshold (Ct), a change in the Ct (delta Ct), or a novel “percent closing of baseline Ct deficit” (percent closing) were evaluated as classifiers of same-day and end-of-treatment culture and therapeutic outcomes.
Xpert was positive in 29/95 (30.5%) of subjects at week 24; and positive one year after treatment in 8/64 (12.5%) successfully-treated patients who remained free of tuberculosis. We identified a relationship between initial bacterial load measured by baseline Xpert Ct and time to culture conversion (hazard ratio 1.06, p = 0.0023), and to the likelihood of being among the 8 treatment failures at week 24 (AUC = 72.8%). Xpert Ct was even more strongly associated with culture conversion on the day the test was performed with AUCs 96.7%, 99.2%, 86.0% and 90.2%, at Day 7, Week 4, 8 and 24, respectively. Compared to baseline Ct measures alone, a combined measure of baseline Ct plus either Delta Ct or percent closing improved the classification of treatment failure status to a 75% sensitivity and 88.9% specificity.
Genome loads measured by Xpert provide a potentially-useful biomarker for classifying same day culture status and predicting response to therapy.
PMCID: PMC4980126  PMID: 27508390
4.  Diagnostic Potential of Novel Salivary Host Biomarkers as Candidates for the Immunological Diagnosis of Tuberculosis Disease and Monitoring of Tuberculosis Treatment Response 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0160546.
There is an urgent need for new tools for the early diagnosis of TB disease and monitoring of the response to treatment, especially in resource-constrained settings. We investigated the usefulness of host markers detected in saliva as candidate biomarkers for the immunological diagnosis of TB disease and monitoring of treatment response.
We prospectively collected saliva samples from 51 individuals that presented with signs and symptoms suggestive of TB disease at a health centre in Cape Town, South Africa, prior to the establishment of a clinical diagnosis. Patients were later classified as having TB disease or other respiratory disease (ORD), using a combination of clinical, radiological and laboratory findings. We evaluated the concentrations of 69 host markers in saliva samples using a multiplex cytokine platform, and assessed the diagnostic potentials of these markers by receiver operator characteristics (ROC) curve analysis, and general discriminant analysis.
Out of the 51 study participants, 18 (35.4%) were diagnosed with TB disease and 12 (23.5%) were HIV infected. Only two of the 69 host markers that were evaluated (IL-16 and IL-23) diagnosed TB disease individually with area under the ROC curve ≥0.70. A five-marker biosignature comprising of IL-1β, IL-23, ECM-1, HCC1 and fibrinogen diagnosed TB disease with a sensitivity of 88.9% (95% CI,76.7–99.9%) and specificity of 89.7% (95% CI, 60.4–96.6%) after leave-one-out cross validation, regardless of HIV infection status. Eight-marker biosignatures performed with a sensitivity of 100% (95% CI, 83.2–100%) and specificity of 95% (95% CI, 68.1–99.9%) in the absence of HIV infection. Furthermore, the concentrations of 11 of the markers changed during treatment, indicating that they may be useful in monitoring of TB treatment response.
We have identified novel salivary biosignatures which may be useful in the diagnosis of TB disease and monitoring of the response to TB treatment. Our findings require further validation in larger studies before these biosignatures could be considered for point-of-care screening test development.
PMCID: PMC4972428  PMID: 27487181
5.  Phenotypic analysis of peripheral B cell populations during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection and disease 
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) remains an unresolved threat resulting in great annual loss of life. The role of B cells during the protective immunity to Mtb is still unclear. B cells have been described as effector cells in addition to their role as antibody producing cells during disease.
Here we aim to identify and characterize the frequency of peripheral B-cell subpopulations during active Tuberculosis and over treatment response. Analysis were done for both class switched (CS) and non-class switched (NCS) phenotypes.
We recruited participants with active untreated pulmonary Tuberculosis, other lung diseases and healthy community controls. All groups were followed up for one week from recruitment and the TB cases till the end of treatment (month 6).
Peripheral blood samples were collected, stained with monoclonal antibodies to CD19+ cells, Immunoglobulin (Ig) M, plasma cells (CD 138+), marker of memory (CD27+), immune activation (CD23+) and acquired on a flow cytometer. Circulating Marginal zone B cells (CD19+IgM+CD23−CD27+) and memory phenotypes are able to distinguish between TB diagnosis and end of treatment. The frequency of mature B cells from TB cases are lower than that of other-lung diseases at diagnosis. A subpopulation of activated memory B cells (CD19+IgM+CD23+CD27+) cells are present at the end of TB treatment.
This study identified distinctive B cell subpopulations present during active TB disease and other lung disease conditions. These cell populations warrants further examination in larger studies as it may be informative as cell markers or as effectors/regulators in TB disease or TB treatment response.
PMCID: PMC4966581  PMID: 27478412
B cells; Marginal zone; Plasma cells; Immuno-phenotyping; Biomarker; Immune activation
6.  Genital Inflammation and the Risk of HIV Acquisition in Women 
In a these South African women, the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition was higher in those with persistently raised genital inflammatory cytokine concentrations (including HIV target cell–recruiting chemokines macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1α, MIP-1β, and interferon-γ inducible protein-10).
Background. Women in Africa, especially young women, have very high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) incidence rates that cannot be fully explained by behavioral risks. We investigated whether genital inflammation influenced HIV acquisition in this group.
Methods. Twelve selected cytokines, including 9 inflammatory cytokines and chemokines (interleukin [IL]-1α, IL-1β, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-8, interferon-γ inducible protein-10 [IP-10], monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, macrophage inflammatory protein [MIP]-1α, MIP-1β), hematopoietic IL-7, and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and regulatory IL-10 were measured prior to HIV infection in cervicovaginal lavages from 58 HIV seroconverters and 58 matched uninfected controls and in plasma from a subset of 107 of these women from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa 004 tenofovir gel trial.
Results. HIV seroconversion was associated with raised genital inflammatory cytokines (including chemokines MIP-1α, MIP-1β, and IP-10). The risk of HIV acquisition was significantly higher in women with evidence of genital inflammation, defined by at least 5 of 9 inflammatory cytokines being raised (odds ratio, 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–7.9; P = .014). Genital cytokine concentrations were persistently raised (for about 1 year before infection), with no readily identifiable cause despite extensive investigation of several potential factors, including sexually transmitted infections and systemic cytokines.
Conclusions. Elevated genital concentrations of HIV target cell–recruiting chemokines and a genital inflammatory profile contributes to the high risk of HIV acquisition in these African women.
PMCID: PMC4565995  PMID: 25900168
HIV transmission; female genital tract; inflammation; cytokine
7.  Profiling persistent tubercule bacilli from patient sputa during therapy predicts early drug efficacy 
BMC Medicine  2016;14:68.
New treatment options are needed to maintain and improve therapy for tuberculosis, which caused the death of 1.5 million people in 2013 despite potential for an 86 % treatment success rate. A greater understanding of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) bacilli that persist through drug therapy will aid drug development programs. Predictive biomarkers for treatment efficacy are also a research priority.
Methods and Results
Genome-wide transcriptional profiling was used to map the mRNA signatures of M.tb from the sputa of 15 patients before and 3, 7 and 14 days after the start of standard regimen drug treatment. The mRNA profiles of bacilli through the first 2 weeks of therapy reflected drug activity at 3 days with transcriptional signatures at days 7 and 14 consistent with reduced M.tb metabolic activity similar to the profile of pre-chemotherapy bacilli. These results suggest that a pre-existing drug-tolerant M.tb population dominates sputum before and after early drug treatment, and that the mRNA signature at day 3 marks the killing of a drug-sensitive sub-population of bacilli. Modelling patient indices of disease severity with bacterial gene expression patterns demonstrated that both microbiological and clinical parameters were reflected in the divergent M.tb responses and provided evidence that factors such as bacterial load and disease pathology influence the host-pathogen interplay and the phenotypic state of bacilli. Transcriptional signatures were also defined that predicted measures of early treatment success (rate of decline in bacterial load over 3 days, TB test positivity at 2 months, and bacterial load at 2 months).
This study defines the transcriptional signature of M.tb bacilli that have been expectorated in sputum after two weeks of drug therapy, characterizing the phenotypic state of bacilli that persist through treatment. We demonstrate that variability in clinical manifestations of disease are detectable in bacterial sputa signatures, and that the changing M.tb mRNA profiles 0–2 weeks into chemotherapy predict the efficacy of treatment 6 weeks later. These observations advocate assaying dynamic bacterial phenotypes through drug therapy as biomarkers for treatment success.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0609-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4825072  PMID: 27055815
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Sputum; Transcriptional profiling; Predictive biomarker; Persistent infection
8.  The Functional Response of B Cells to Antigenic Stimulation: A Preliminary Report of Latent Tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(4):e0152710.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) remains a successful pathogen, causing tuberculosis disease numbers to constantly increase. Although great progress has been made in delineating the disease, the host-pathogen interaction is incompletely described. B cells have shown to function as both effectors and regulators of immunity via non-humoral methods in both innate and adaptive immune settings. Here we assessed specific B cell functional interaction following stimulation with a broad range of antigens within the LTBI milieu. Our results indicate that B cells readily produce pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (including IL-1β, IL-10, IL-17, IL-21 and TNF-α) in response to stimulation. TLR4 and TLR9 based stimulations achieved the greatest secreted cytokine-production response and BCG stimulation displayed a clear preference for inducing IL-1β production. We also show that the cytokines produced by B cells are implicated strongly in cell-mediated communication and that plasma (memory) B cells (CD19+CD27+CD138+) is the subset with the greatest contribution to cytokine production. Collectively our data provides insight into B cell responses, where they are implicated in and quantifies responses from specific B cell phenotypes. These findings warrant further functional B cell research with a focus on specific B cell phenotypes under conditions of active TB disease to further our knowledge about the contribution of various cell subsets which could have implications for future vaccine development or refined B cell orientated treatment in the health setting.
PMCID: PMC4822853  PMID: 27050308
9.  Optimizing the Detection of Recent Tuberculosis Infection in Children in a High Tuberculosis–HIV Burden Setting 
Rationale: Children who are young, malnourished, and infected with HIV have significant risk of tuberculosis (TB) morbidity and mortality following TB infection. Treatment of TB infection is hindered by poor detection and limited pediatric data.
Objectives: Identify improved testing to detect pediatric TB infection.
Methods: This was a prospective community-based study assessing use of the tuberculin skin test and IFN-γ release assays among children (n = 1,343; 6 mo to <15 yr) in TB-HIV high-burden settings; associations with child characteristics were measured.
Measurements and Main Results: Contact tracing detects TB in 8% of child contacts within 3 months of exposure. Among children with no documented contact, tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube positivity was greater than T-SPOT.TB. Nearly 8% of children had IFN-γ release assay positive and skin test negative discordance. In a model accounting for confounders, all tests correlate with TB contact, but IFN-γ release assays correlate better than the tuberculin skin test (P = 0.0011). Indeterminate IFN-γ release assay results were not associated with age. Indeterminate QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube results were more frequent in children infected with HIV (4.7%) than uninfected with HIV (1.9%), whereas T-SPOT.TB indeterminates were rare (0.2%) and not affected by HIV status. Conversion and reversion were not associated with HIV status. Among children infected with HIV, tests correlated less with contact as malnutrition worsened.
Conclusions: Where resources allow, use of IFN-γ release assays should be considered in children who are young, recently exposed, and infected with HIV because they may offer advantages compared with the tuberculin skin test for identifying TB infection, and improve targeted, cost-effective delivery of preventive therapy. Affordable tests of infection could dramatically impact global TB control.
PMCID: PMC4407483  PMID: 25622087
HIV; latent tuberculosis infection; pediatrics; IFN-γ release tests; tuberculin test
10.  Epigenetics and Proteomics Join Transcriptomics in the Quest for Tuberculosis Biomarkers 
mBio  2015;6(5):e01187-15.
An estimated one-third of the world’s population is currently latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Latent M. tuberculosis infection (LTBI) progresses into active tuberculosis (TB) disease in ~5 to 10% of infected individuals. Diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers to monitor disease progression are urgently needed to ensure better care for TB patients and to decrease the spread of TB. Biomarker development is primarily based on transcriptomics. Our understanding of biology combined with evolving technical advances in high-throughput techniques led us to investigate the possibility of additional platforms (epigenetics and proteomics) in the quest to (i) understand the biology of the TB host response and (ii) search for multiplatform biosignatures in TB. We engaged in a pilot study to interrogate the DNA methylome, transcriptome, and proteome in selected monocytes and granulocytes from TB patients and healthy LTBI participants. Our study provides first insights into the levels and sources of diversity in the epigenome and proteome among TB patients and LTBI controls, despite limitations due to small sample size. Functionally the differences between the infection phenotypes (LTBI versus active TB) observed in the different platforms were congruent, thereby suggesting regulation of function not only at the transcriptional level but also by DNA methylation and microRNA. Thus, our data argue for the development of a large-scale study of the DNA methylome, with particular attention to study design in accounting for variation based on gender, age, and cell type.
DNA methylation modifies the transcriptional program of cells. We have focused on two major populations of leukocytes involved in immune response to infectious diseases, granulocytes and monocytes, both of which are professional phagocytes that engulf and kill bacteria. We have interrogated how DNA methylation, gene expression, and protein translation differ in these two cell populations between healthy individuals and patients suffering from TB. To better understand the underlying biologic mechanisms, we harnessed a statistical enrichment analysis, taking advantage of predefined and well-characterized gene sets. Not only were there clear differences on various levels between the two populations, but there were also differences between TB patients and healthy controls in the transcriptome, proteome, and, for the first time, DNA methylome in these cells. Our pilot study emphasizes the value of a large-scale study of the DNA methylome taking into account our findings.
PMCID: PMC4600108  PMID: 26374119
11.  Excessive Cytolytic Responses Predict Tuberculosis Relapse After Apparently Successful Treatment 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2015;213(3):485-495.
Background. Currently, there are no tools to accurately predict tuberculosis relapse. This study aimed to determine whether patients who experience tuberculosis relapse have different immune responses to mycobacteria in vitro than patients who remain cured for 2 years.
Methods. Patients with an initial episode of pulmonary tuberculosis were recruited in South Africa. Diluted blood, collected at diagnosis and after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment, was cultured with live Mycobacterium tuberculosis for 6 days, and cellular RNA was frozen. Gene expression in samples from 10 patients who subsequently experienced relapse, confirmed by strain genotyping, was compared to that in samples from patients who remained cured, using microarrays.
Results. At diagnosis, expression of 668 genes was significantly different in samples from patients who experienced relapse, compared with expression in patients who remained successfully cured; these differences persisted for at least 4 weeks. Gene ontology and biological pathways analyses revealed significant upregulation of genes involved in cytotoxic cell-mediated killing. Results were confirmed by real-time quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis in a wider patient cohort.
Conclusions. These data show that patients who will subsequently experience relapse exhibit altered immune responses, including excessively robust cytolytic responses to M. tuberculosis in vitro, at the time of diagnosis, compared with patients who will achieve durable cure. Together with microbiological and clinical indices, these differences could be exploited in drug development.
PMCID: PMC4704670  PMID: 26351358
transcriptomics; microarray; drug development; blood; patient
12.  A Subgroup of Latently Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infected Individuals Is Characterized by Consistently Elevated IgA Responses to Several Mycobacterial Antigens 
Mediators of Inflammation  2015;2015:364758.
Elevated antibody responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens in individuals with latent infection (LTBI) have previously been linked to an increased risk for progression to active disease. Studies in the field focussed mainly on IgG antibodies. In the present study, IgA and/or IgG responses to the mycobacterial protein antigens AlaDH, NarL, 19 kDa, PstS3, and MPT83 were determined in a blinded fashion in sera from 53 LTBI controls, 14 healthy controls, and 42 active TB subjects. Among controls, we found that elevated IgA levels against all investigated antigens were not randomly distributed but concentrated on a subgroup of <30%—with particular high levels in a small subgroup of ~5% comprising one progressor to active TB. Based on a specificity of 100%, anti-NarL IgA antibodies achieved with 78.6% sensitivity the highest accuracy for the detection of active TB compared to healthy controls. In conclusion, the consistently elevated IgA levels in a subgroup of controls suggest higher mycobacterial load, a risk factor for progression to active TB, and together with high IgG levels may have prognostic potential and should be investigated in future large scale studies. The novel antigen NarL may also be promising for the antibody-based diagnosis of active TB cases.
PMCID: PMC4546975  PMID: 26347586
13.  Distinct Cytokine Patterns in Semen Influence Local HIV Shedding and HIV Target Cell Activation 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;209(8):1174-1184.
Background. Semen is the main vector for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission from men to women. We investigated the influence of cytokines in semen on local HIV burden and activated T cells.
Methods. Blood and semen were collected from 42 HIV-negative and 38 HIV-positive men. Concentrations of 20 cytokines were measured by Luminex, and frequencies of activated T cells were measured by flow cytometry.
Results. Semen contained higher concentrations of proinflammatory (monocyte chemotactic protein-1, interleukin [IL]-8, IL-6, Fractalkine, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1β, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor) and adaptive cytokines (IL-7 and IL-15) and higher frequencies of activated T cells compared to blood. Plasma IL-2, eotaxin, MIP-1β, and IL-15 and semen eotaxin and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) concentrations were associated with T-cell activation. Cytokines in semen were highly coregulated in HIV-negative men; however, this network was disrupted during HIV infection. Several cytokines in semen correlated with HIV shedding (G-CSF, tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α], interferon-gamma [IFN-γ], IL-10).
Conclusion. Higher levels of inflammation and T-cell activation were observed in semen compared with blood. Seminal G-CSF, which influences neutrophil survival, T-cell function, and dendritic cell activation, was associated with T-cell activation and HIV shedding and may be an important target for reducing HIV shedding or risk.
PMCID: PMC3969547  PMID: 24273175
semen; HIV; activation; T cells; inflammation; cytokines
14.  Proliferative capacity and cytokine production by cells of HIV-infected and uninfected adults with different helminth infection phenotypes in South Africa 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:499.
It has been suggested that the proliferative capacity of cells from individuals with HIV or both HIV and helminth infections is attenuated and cytokine production is dysregulated. This study describes peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferation capacity and cytokine profile from individuals with HIV or both HIV and helminth infections in South Africa.
Forty HIV-infected and 22 HIV-uninfected participants were randomly selected and stratified into different helminth infection phenotypes by egg excretion and Ascaris lumbricoides specific –immunoglobulin-E (IgE) levels. Five day cell cultures of participants, unstimulated or stimulated with Phytohaemaglutinnin, Streptokinase, HIV-1 p24 and Ascaris lumbricoides worm antigens were stained with monoclonal antibody-fluorochrome conjugates (Ki67-FITC and CTLA-APC-4). Percentage expression of Ki67 and CTLA-4 was measured to determine cell proliferation and regulation, respectively. Culture supernatants were analysed for the expression of 13 cytokines using the Bioplex (BioRad) system. Kruskal Wallis was used to test for differences in variables between helminth infected subgroups who were either having eggs in stool and high IgE (egg+IgEhi); or eggs in stool and low IgE (egg+IgElo); or no eggs in stool and high IgE (egg-IgEhi) and those without helminth infection (egg-IgElo).
Individuals excreting eggs in stool with high serum IgE (egg+IgEhi phenotype) had potent mitogen responses but consistently produced low, but statistically non-significant antigen–specific (HIV-1 p24 (p = 0.41) and Ascaris (p = 0.19) and recall antigen (Streptokinase; p = 0.31) Ki67 responses. The group also had reduced type 1 cytokines. Individuals excreting eggs in stool with low serum IgE( egg+IgElo phenotype) had a more favourable antiviral profile, characterized by higher IFNγ, IL-2, lower IL-4 and higher IL-10 production.
The findings suggest that dual HIV/helminth infection with egg excretion and/or high Ascaris IgE phenotye may be linked with poor proliferative capacity and deleterious cytokine profile with regards to HIV control.
PMCID: PMC4262143  PMID: 25209883
HIV; Helminths; Co-infection; Proliferation; Ki67; CTLA-4; Cytokines
15.  Host Cytokine Responses Induced after Overnight Stimulation with Novel M. tuberculosis Infection Phase-Dependent Antigens Show Promise as Diagnostic Candidates for TB Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102584.
We previously identified Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) antigen-induced host markers that showed promise as TB diagnostic candidates in 7-day whole blood culture supernatants. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the utility of these markers further, and cross-compare results with short-term antigen stimulated and unstimulated culture supernatants.
We recruited 15 culture confirmed TB cases and 15 non-TB cases from a high-TB endemic community in Cape Town, South Africa into a pilot case-control study from an on-going larger study. Blood samples collected from study participants were stimulated with 4 M.tb antigens that were previously identified as promising (ESAT6/CFP10 (early secreted), Rv2029c (latency), Rv2032 (latency) and Rv2389c (rpf)) in a 7-day or overnight culture assay. Supernatants were also collected form the standard QuantiFERON In Tube (QFT-IT) test. The levels of 26 host markers were evaluated in the three culture supernatants using the Luminex platform.
The unstimulated levels of CRP, Serum amyloid P (SAP) and serum amyloid A (SAA) and ESAT-6/CFP-10 specific IP-10 and SAA were amongst the best discriminatory markers in all 3 assays, ascertaining TB with AUC of 72–84%. Four-marker models accurately classified up to 92%, 100% and 100% of study participants in the overnight, 7-day and Quantiferon culture supernatants, respectively, after leave-one-out cross validation.
Unstimulated and antigen-specific levels of CRP, SAA, IP-10, MMP-2 and sCD40L hold promise as diagnostic candidates for TB disease in short-term stimulation assays. Larger studies are required to validate these findings but the data suggest that antigen-specific cytokine production and in particular mutimarker biosignatures might contribute to future diagnostic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4099213  PMID: 25025278
16.  Exploring Alternative Biomaterials for Diagnosis of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in HIV-Negative Patients by Use of the GeneXpert MTB/RIF Assay 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(12):4161-4166.
The utility of the GeneXpert MTB/RIF (Xpert) assay for detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in sputum samples has been extensively studied. However, the performance of the Xpert assay as applied to other readily accessible body fluids such as exhaled breath condensate (EBC), saliva, urine, and blood has not been established. We used the Xpert assay to test EBC, saliva, urine, and blood samples from HIV-negative, smear- and culture-positive pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) patients for the presence of M. tuberculosis. To compare the ability of the assay to perform bacterial load measurements on sputum samples with versus without sample processing, the assay was also performed on paired direct and processed sputum samples from each patient. The Xpert assay detected M. tuberculosis in none of the 26 EBC samples (sensitivity, 0.0%; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.0%, 12.9%), 10 of the 26 saliva samples (sensitivity, 38.5%; 95% CI, 22.4%, 57.5%), 1 of 26 urine samples (sensitivity, 3.8%; 95% CI, 0.7%, 18.9%), and 2 of 24 blood samples (sensitivity, 8.3%; 95% CI, 2.3%, 25.8%). For bacterial load measurements in the different types of sputum samples, the cycle thresholds of the two M. tuberculosis-positive sputum types were well correlated (Spearman correlation of 0.834). This study demonstrates that the Xpert assay should not be routinely used to detect M. tuberculosis in EBC, saliva, urine, or blood samples from HIV-negative patients suspected of having pulmonary tuberculosis. As a test of bacterial load, the assay produced similar results when used to test direct versus processed sputum samples. Sputum remains the optimal sample type for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis in HIV-negative patients with the Xpert assay.
PMCID: PMC3838083  PMID: 24108610
17.  Combination of gene expression patterns in whole blood discriminate between tuberculosis infection states 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:257.
Genetic factors are involved in susceptibility or protection to tuberculosis (TB). Apart from gene polymorphisms and mutations, changes in levels of gene expression, induced by non-genetic factors, may also determine whether individuals progress to active TB.
We analysed the expression level of 45 genes in a total of 47 individuals (23 healthy household contacts and 24 new smear-positive pulmonary TB patients) in Addis Ababa using a dual colour multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (dcRT-MLPA) technique to assess gene expression profiles that may be used to distinguish TB cases and their contacts and also latently infected (LTBI) and uninfected household contacts.
The gene expression level of BLR1, Bcl2, IL4d2, IL7R, FCGR1A, MARCO, MMP9, CCL19, and LTF had significant discriminatory power between sputum smear-positive TB cases and household contacts, with AUCs of 0.84, 0.81, 0.79, 0.79, 0.78, 0.76, 0.75, 0.75 and 0.68 respectively. The combination of Bcl2, BLR1, FCGR1A, IL4d2 and MARCO identified 91.66% of active TB cases and 95.65% of household contacts without active TB. The expression of CCL19, TGFB1, and Foxp3 showed significant difference between LTBI and uninfected contacts, with AUCs of 0.85, 0.82, and 0.75, respectively, whereas the combination of BPI, CCL19, FoxP3, FPR1 and TGFB1 identified 90.9% of QFT- and 91.6% of QFT+ household contacts.
Expression of single and especially combinations of host genes can accurately differentiate between active TB cases and healthy individuals as well as between LTBI and uninfected contacts.
PMCID: PMC4041060  PMID: 24885723
18.  Impact of HIV co-infection on plasma level of cytokines and chemokines of pulmonary tuberculosis patients 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:125.
The immunologic environment during HIV/M. tuberculosis co-infection is characterized by cytokine and chemokine irregularities that have been shown to increase immune activation, viral replication, and T cell dysfunction.
We analysed ex vivo plasma samples from 17 HIV negative and 16 HIV pulmonary tuberculosis co infected cases using Luminex assay to see impact of HIV co-infection on plasma level of cytokines and chemokines of pulmonary tuberculosis patients before and after anti Tuberculosis treatment.
The median plasma level of IFN-γ, IL-4, MCP-3, MIP-1β and IP-10 was significantly different (P < 0.05) before and after treatment in HIV negative TB patients but not in HIV positive TB patients. There was no significant difference between HIV positive and HIV negative TB patients (P > 0.05) in the plasma level of any of the cytokines or chemokines before treatment and anti TB treatment did not change the level of any of the measured cytokines in HIV positive tuberculosis patients. The ratio of IFN-γ/IL-10 and IFN-γ/IL-4 showed a significant increase after treatment in HIV negative TB cases but not in HIV positive TB cases which might indicate prolonged impairment of immune response to TB in HIV positive TB patients as compared to HIV negative tuberculosis patients.
HIV positive and HIV negative Tuberculosis patients display similar plasma cytokine and chemokine pattern. However, anti TB treatment significantly improves the Th1 cytokines and level of chemokines but does not restore the immune response in HIV positive individuals.
PMCID: PMC3974017  PMID: 24592945
Pulmonary tuberculosis; HIV; Cytokines and chemokines
19.  A metabolic biosignature of early response to anti-tuberculosis treatment 
The successful treatment of tuberculosis (TB) requires long-term multidrug chemotherapy. Clinical trials to evaluate new drugs and regimens for TB treatment are protracted due to the slow clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection and the lack of early biomarkers to predict treatment outcome. Advancements in the field of metabolomics make it possible to identify metabolic profiles that correlate with disease states or successful chemotherapy. However, proof-of-concept of this approach has not been provided for a TB-early treatment response biosignature (TB-ETRB).
Urine samples collected at baseline and during treatment from 48 Ugandan and 39 South African HIV-seronegative adults with pulmonary TB were divided into discovery and qualification sets, normalized to creatinine concentration, and analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify small molecule molecular features (MFs) in individual patient samples. A biosignature that distinguished baseline and 1 month treatment samples was selected by pairwise t-test using data from two discovery sample sets. Hierarchical clustering and repeated measures analysis were applied to additional sample data to down select molecular features that behaved consistently between the two clinical sites and these were evaluated by logistic regression analysis.
Analysis of discovery samples identified 45 MFs that significantly changed in abundance at one month of treatment. Down selection using an extended set of discovery samples and qualification samples confirmed 23 MFs that consistently changed in abundance between baseline and 1, 2 and 6 months of therapy, with 12 MFs achieving statistical significance (p < 0.05). Six MFs classified the baseline and 1 month samples with an error rate of 11.8%.
These results define a urine based TB-early treatment response biosignature (TB-ETRB) applicable to different parts of Africa, and provide proof-of-concept for further evaluation of this technology in monitoring clinical responses to TB therapy.
PMCID: PMC3918231  PMID: 24484441
Tuberculosis; Metabolomics; Biomarker; Mass spectrometry; Small molecule biosignature; Anti-tuberculosis therapy; Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Urine
20.  Mycobacterium bovis BCG infection severely delays Trichuris muris expulsion and co-infection suppresses immune responsiveness to both pathogens 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:9.
The global epidemiology of parasitic helminths and mycobacterial infections display extensive geographical overlap, especially in the rural and urban communities of developing countries. We investigated whether co-infection with the gastrointestinal tract-restricted helminth, Trichuris muris, and the intracellular bacterium, Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) BCG, would alter host immune responses to, or the pathological effect of, either infection.
We demonstrate that both pathogens are capable of negatively affecting local and systemic immune responses towards each other by modifying cytokine phenotypes and by inducing general immune suppression. T. muris infection influenced non-specific and pathogen-specific immunity to M. bovis BCG by down-regulating pulmonary TH1 and Treg responses and inducing systemic TH2 responses. However, co-infection did not alter mycobacterial multiplication or dissemination and host pulmonary histopathology remained unaffected compared to BCG-only infected mice. Interestingly, prior M. bovis BCG infection significantly delayed helminth clearance and increased intestinal crypt cell proliferation in BALB/c mice. This was accompanied by a significant reduction in systemic helminth-specific TH1 and TH2 cytokine responses and significantly reduced local TH1 and TH2 responses in comparison to T. muris-only infected mice.
Our data demonstrate that co-infection with pathogens inducing opposing immune phenotypes, can have differential effects on compartmentalized host immune protection to either pathogen. In spite of local and systemic decreases in TH1 and increases in TH2 responses co-infected mice clear M. bovis BCG at the same rate as BCG only infected animals, whereas prior mycobacterial infection initiates prolonged worm infestation in parallel to decreased pathogen-specific TH2 cytokine production.
PMCID: PMC3898725  PMID: 24433309
Helminth; Co-infection; Mycobacteria; Tuberculosis
21.  Differential Expression of Host Biomarkers in Saliva and Serum Samples from Individuals with Suspected Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:981984.
The diagnosis of tuberculosis remains challenging in individuals with difficulty in providing good quality sputum samples such as children. Host biosignatures of inflammatory markers may be valuable in such cases, especially if they are based on more easily obtainable samples such as saliva. To explore the potential of saliva as an alternative sample in tuberculosis diagnostic/biomarker investigations, we evaluated the levels of 33 host markers in saliva samples from individuals presenting with pulmonary tuberculosis symptoms and compared them to those obtained in serum. Of the 38 individuals included in the study, tuberculosis disease was confirmed in 11 (28.9%) by sputum culture. In both the tuberculosis cases and noncases, the levels of most markers were above the minimum detectable limit in both sample types, but there was no consistent pattern regarding the ratio of markers in serum/saliva. Fractalkine, IL-17, IL-6, IL-9, MIP-1β, CRP, VEGF, and IL-5 levels in saliva and IL-6, IL-2, SAP, and SAA levels in serum were significantly higher in tuberculosis patients (P < 0.05). These preliminary data indicate that there are significant differences in the levels of host markers expressed in saliva in comparison to those expressed in serum and that inflammatory markers in both sample types are potential diagnostic candidates for tuberculosis disease.
PMCID: PMC3845251  PMID: 24327799
22.  The Contraceptive Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate Impairs Mycobacterial Control and Inhibits Cytokine Secretion in Mice Infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(4):1234-1244.
The contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), with progestin as the single active compound, possesses selective glucocorticoid activity and can alter the expression of glucocorticoid receptor-regulated genes. We therefore propose that pharmacological doses of DMPA used for endocrine therapy could have significant immune modulatory effects and impact on susceptibility to, as well as clinical manifestation and outcome of, infectious diseases. We investigated the effect of contraceptive doses of DMPA in two different murine Mycobacterium tuberculosis models. Multiplex bead array analysis revealed that DMPA altered serum cytokine levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and interleukin 10 (IL-10) in C57BL/6 mice and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) in BALB/c mice. DMPA also suppressed antigen-specific production of TNF-α, G-CSF, IL-10, and IL-6 and induced the production of IP-10 in C57BL/6 mice. In BALB/c mice, DMPA altered the antigen-specific secretion of IFN-γ, IL-17, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), IL-6, and monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1). Furthermore, we show that C57BL/6 mice treated with doses of DMPA, which result in serum concentrations similar to those observed in contraceptive users, have a significantly higher bacterial load in their lungs. Our data show for the first time that DMPA impacts tuberculosis (TB) disease severity in a mouse model and that the effects of this contraceptive are not confined to infections of the genital tract. This could have major implications for the contraceptive policies not only in developing countries like South Africa but also worldwide.
PMCID: PMC3639598  PMID: 23381991
23.  Analysis of Host Responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis Antigens in a Multi-Site Study of Subjects with Different TB and HIV Infection States in Sub-Saharan Africa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74080.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a global health threat with 9 million new cases and 1.4 million deaths per year. In order to develop a protective vaccine, we need to define the antigens expressed by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), which are relevant to protective immunity in high-endemic areas.
We analysed responses to 23 Mtb antigens in a total of 1247 subjects with different HIV and TB status across 5 geographically diverse sites in Africa (South Africa, The Gambia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda). We used a 7-day whole blood assay followed by IFN-γ ELISA on the supernatants. Antigens included PPD, ESAT-6 and Ag85B (dominant antigens) together with novel resuscitation-promoting factors (rpf), reactivation proteins, latency (Mtb DosR regulon-encoded) antigens, starvation-induced antigens and secreted antigens.
There was variation between sites in responses to the antigens, presumably due to underlying genetic and environmental differences. When results from all sites were combined, HIV- subjects with active TB showed significantly lower responses compared to both TST- and TST+ contacts to latency antigens (Rv0569, Rv1733, Rv1735, Rv1737) and the rpf Rv0867; whilst responses to ESAT-6/CFP-10 fusion protein (EC), PPD, Rv2029, TB10.3, and TB10.4 were significantly higher in TST+ contacts (LTBI) compared to TB and TST- contacts fewer differences were seen in subjects with HIV co-infection, with responses to the mitogen PHA significantly lower in subjects with active TB compared to those with LTBI and no difference with any antigen.
Our multi-site study design for testing novel Mtb antigens revealed promising antigens for future vaccine development. The IFN-γ ELISA is a cheap and useful tool for screening potential antigenicity in subjects with different ethnic backgrounds and across a spectrum of TB and HIV infection states. Analysis of cytokines other than IFN-γ is currently on-going to determine correlates of protection, which may be useful for vaccine efficacy trials.
PMCID: PMC3769366  PMID: 24040170
24.  Symptomatic Vaginal Discharge Is a Poor Predictor of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Genital Tract Inflammation in High-Risk Women in South Africa 
Background. Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a public health priority, particularly in regions where the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is high. In most developing countries, STIs are managed syndromically. We assessed the adequacy of syndromic diagnosis of STIs, compared with laboratory diagnosis of STIs, and evaluated the association between STI diagnosis and the risk of HIV acquisition in a cohort of high-risk women.
Methods. HIV-uninfected high-risk women (n = 242) were followed for 24 months. Symptoms of STIs were recorded, and laboratory diagnosis of common STI pathogens was conducted every 6 months. Forty-two cytokines were measured by Luminex in cervicovaginal lavage specimens at enrollment. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was evaluated monthly.
Results. Only 12.3% of women (25 of 204) who had a laboratory-diagnosed, discharge-causing STI had clinically evident discharge. Vaginal discharge was thus a poor predictor of laboratory-diagnosed STIs (sensitivity, 12.3%; specificity, 93.8%). Cervicovaginal cytokine concentrations did not differ between women with asymptomatic STIs and those with symptomatic STIs and were elevated in women with asymptomatic STIs, compared with women with no STIs or bacterial vaginosis. Although laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased risk of HIV infection (hazard ratio, 3.3 [95% confidence interval, 1.5–7.2)], clinical symptoms were not.
Conclusions. Syndromic STI diagnosis dependent on vaginal discharge was poorly predictive of laboratory-diagnosed STI. Laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased susceptibility to HIV acquisition, while vaginal discharge was not.
PMCID: PMC3490689  PMID: 22517910
25.  Utility of Host Markers Detected in Quantiferon Supernatants for the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in Children in a High-Burden Setting 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64226.
The diagnosis of childhood tuberculosis (TB) disease remains a challenge especially in young and HIV-infected children. Recent studies have identified potential host markers which, when measured in Quantiferon (QFT-IT) supernatants, show promise in discriminating between Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) infection states. In this study, the utility of such markers was investigated in children screened for TB in a setting with high TB incidence.
Methodology and Principal Findings
76 children (29% HIV-infected) with or without active TB provided blood specimens collected directly into QFT-IT tubes. After overnight incubation, culture supernatants were harvested, aliquoted and frozen for future immunological research purposes. Subsequently, the levels of 12 host markers previously identified as potential TB diagnostic markers were evaluated in these supernatants for their ability to discriminate between M.tb infection and disease states using the Luminex platform. Of the 76 children included, 19 (25%) had culture confirmed TB disease; 26 (46%) of the 57 without TB had positive markers of M.tb infection defined by a positive QFT-IT test. The potentially most useful analytes for diagnosing TB disease included IFN-α2, IL-1Ra, sCD40L and VEGF and the most useful markers for discriminating between QFT-IT positive children as TB or latent infection included IL-1Ra, IP-10 and VEGF. When markers were used in combinations of four, 84% of all children were accurately classified into their respective groups (TB disease or no TB), after leave-one-out cross validation.
Measurement of the levels of IFN-α2, IL-1Ra, sCD40L, IP-10 and VEGF in QFT-IT supernatants may be a useful method for diagnosing TB disease and differentiating between active TB disease and M.tb infection in children. Our observations warrant further investigation in larger well-characterized clinical cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3655018  PMID: 23691173

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