Antibody levels rise during treatment of tuberculosis. This study examined when this rise occurred, whether there was recognition of new antigen binding sites (epitopes) on the same or different antigens, and how long specific antibody persisted. Forty patients with smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis provided serum before and during treatment. Antibody levels were measured using a monoclonal antibody competition assay to epitopes restricted to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for lipoarabinomannan. Significant increases in antibody levels were apparent after 7 days of treatment. Five samples (12.5%) had positive titers to all epitopes at the start of treatment, and this increased to 23 (58%) during treatment. Antibody to epitopes with the poorest sensitivity (the TB23 epitope of the 19-kDa antigen and the TB78 epitope of hsp65) showed the greatest increases after treatment. Antibody to these two epitopes was also absent in some patients with relapsed tuberculosis until after treatment. Antibody titers showed a biphasic response, with a fall at 2 to 3 months of treatment. Sera from two patients showed changes in the affinity of epitope-specific antibody during treatment, whereas the majority did not. Those infected with isoniazid-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis showed a late rise in antibody. Antibody to the TB68 epitope of the 16-kDa α-crystallin homolog was short-lived, but it recurred with bacteriological relapse during treatment. Positive antibody titers persisted for at least 3 to 18 months after treatment. Diagnostic tests for tuberculosis should be evaluated using only pretreatment sera. Delayed antigenic recognition could be due to active suppression and/or failure to engage internal antigens of M. tuberculosis.
Bothamley, G. H. (2004). Epitope-specific antibody levels demonstrate recognition of new epitopes and changes in titer but not affinity during treatment of tuberculosis. Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology, 11(5), 942–951. https://doi.org/10.1128/CDLI.11.5.942-951.2004