Interferon-gamma, the activated macrophage, and host defense against microbial challenge
Recent research on human macrophage activation has reemphasized the critical role of the lymphokine-secreting T cell in converting quiescent macrophages to efficient microbicidal phagocytes. Interferon-gamma, a key lymphokine secreted by antigen-triggered T4+ helper cells, is capable of inducing the macrophage to act against a diverse group of microbial targets, in particular, intracellular pathogens. In animal models, treatment with recombinant interferon-gamma is beneficial in systemic intracellular infections, and inhibition of endogenous interferon-gamma activity impairs host resistance. Trials in patients with cancer, leprosy, and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) have shown that interferon-gamma can activate the mononuclear phagocyte in humans. This research and the identification of patients whose T cells fail to produce interferon-gamma properly has set the stage for evaluating the role of macrophage-activating immunotherapy using interferon-gamma in various human infectious diseases.