Local and systemic effects of intradermal recombinant interferon-γ in patients with lepromatous leprosy
Evidence that interferon-gamma may be a physiologic macrophage-activating factor, and that macrophage activation may be defective in lepromatous leprosy, led us to test the effects of intradermal injection of low doses of recombinant interferon-gamma in six patients with this disease. Interferon-gamma, 1 or 10 micrograms, was administered daily by jet gun for three days into a single cutaneous lesion. A biopsy specimen was taken from the injection site on the sixth study day and compared with specimens obtained previously from a site where no injection had been made or where excipient alone had been injected in the same way as the interferon. Interferon-gamma elicited local effects similar to certain features of delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions or tuberculoid leprosy, including induration, T-cell and monocyte infiltration, keratinocyte proliferation, diminution of epidermal Langerhans cells, and dermal and epidermal cell HLA-DR (Ia) antigen expression. At some of the sites of interferon-gamma injection, there was also an apparent decrease in acid-fast bacilli. Before treatment, monocytes from patients with lepromatous leprosy released 48 percent as much hydrogen peroxide as did monocytes from controls in response to phorbol myristate acetate, and 36 percent as much as those from controls in response to Mycobacterium leprae. When recombinant interferon-gamma was injected, these responses became normal. No toxic effects were observed. These observations suggest that interferon-gamma can mediate certain manifestations of delayed-type hypersensitivity or cell-mediated immunity in vivo, and that recombinant interferon-gamma should be tested for possible therapeutic effects in certain nonviral infectious diseases.