Decreased serum granulysin levels in childhood tuberculosis which reverse after therapy
Granulysin is a cytolytic protein of natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Serum levels of granulysin are related to host cellular immunity. We used an ELISA to quantify granulysin serum levels in children with tuberculosis (TB), before and after chemotherapy. The study involved children affected by different clinical forms of TB (n=72) and healthy control children (n=150) from the same geographical area and of similar socio-economic background. Serum granulysin levels before the initiation of TB therapy were significantly lower in children with TB compared to controls, with the lowest levels being found in TB patients who were PPD skin test negative. No statistically significant differences were found between serum granulysin levels and clinical severity (mild/moderate or advanced pulmonary TB) or the clinical form (pulmonary or extra-pulmonary) of TB. At four months after completion of therapy, serum granulysin levels in children treated for TB were not significantly different to those observed in control children. This finding was paralleled by the increased in vitro mycobactericidal activity of sera from TB patients after completion of therapy. We propose that serum granulysin levels may provide a marker of disease activity in childhood TB and might be useful for monitoring improvement after chemotherapy.