Why relapse occurs in PB leprosy patients after adequate MDT despite they are Mitsuda reactive: lessons form Convit's experiment on bacteria-clearing capacity of lepromin-induced granuloma.Int J Lepr Other Mycobact Dis. 1998 Jun; 66(2):182-9.IJ
It is amazing how after years of scientific research and therapeutic progress many simple and basic questions about protective immunity against Mycobacterium leprae remain unanswered. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended short-term multidrug therapy (WHO/MDT) for the treatment of paucibacillary (PB) leprosy patients, from time to time several workers from different parts of the globe have reported inadequate clinical responses in a few tuberculoid and indeterminate leprosy patients following adequate WHO/MDT despite the fact that they are Mitsuda responsive. A few borderline tuberculoid patients harbor acid-fast bacilli (AFB) in their nerves for many years even though they become clinically inactive following MDT, a fact which has been ignored by many leprosy field workers. Keeping these patients in mind, we have attempted to investigate the cause of the persistence of AFB in PB cases and have looked into the question of why Mitsuda positivity in tuberculoid and indeterminate leprosy patients, as well as in healthy contacts, is not invariably a guarantee for protectivity against the leprosy bacilli. We have: a) analyzed the histological features of lepromin-induced granulomas, b) studied the bacteria-clearing capacity of the macrophages within such granulomas, and c) studied the in vitro leukocyte migration inhibition factor released by the blood leukocytes of these subjects when M. leprae sonicates have been used as an elicitor. The results of these three tests in the three groups of subjects have been compared and led us to conclude that the bacteria-clearing capacity of the macrophages within lepromin-induced granuloma (positive CCB test) may be taken as an indicator of the capability of elimination of leprosy bacilli and protective immunity against the disease. This important macrophage function is not invariably present in all tuberculoid and indeterminate leprosy patients or in all contacts even though they are Mitsuda responsive and are able to show a positive leukocyte migration inhibition (LMI) test. It is likely but not certain that this deficit of the macrophage is genetically predetermined and persists after completion of short-term WHO/MDT. Thus, after discontinuation of treatment slow-growing, persisting M. leprae multiply within macrophages leading to relapse.