It has been proposed that the increase in prevalence and severity of atopic disorders inversely correlates with exposure to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. We have investigated this issue by combining an intranasal Mycobacterium bovis-Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) infection with a murine model of allergen, (ovalbumin [OVA]) induced airway eosinophilia. BCG infection either 4 or 12 wk before allergen airway challenge resulted in a 90-95 and 60-70% reduction in eosinophilia within the lungs, respectively, compared to uninfected controls. The inhibition of airway eosinophilia correlated with a reduced level of IL-5 production by T cells from the lymph node draining the site of OVA challenge. Interestingly, BCG infection of the lung had no effect on IgG1 and IgE OVA-specific serum immunoglobulin or blood eosinophil levels. Furthermore, BCG-induced inhibition of airway eosinophilia was strongly reduced in interferon (IFN)-γ receptor-deficient mice and could be partially reversed by intranasal IL-5 application. Intranasal BCG infections could also reduce the degree of lung eosinophilia and IL-5 produced by T cells after Nippostrongylus brasiliensis infection. Taken together, our data suggest that IFN-γ produced during the T helper cell (Th)1 immune response against BCG suppresses the development of local inflammatory Th2 responses in the lung. Most importantly, this inhibition did not extend to the systemic immunoglobulin response against OVA. Our data support the view that mycobacterial infections have the potential to suppress the development of atopic disorders in humans.
Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.