Effect of mycobacterium vaccae on cytokine responses in children with atopic dermatitis

Elizabeth A. Hadley, F. I. Smillie, M. A. Turner, A. Custovic, A. Woodcock, P. D. Arkwright

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    The increasing prevalence of atopic diseases over the last few decades is thought to be due to reduced exposure to environmental microbes that normally down-regulate allergic responses (hygiene hypothesis). We have shown previously that administration of the environmental microbe Mycobacterium vaccae ameliorates atopic dermatitis in school-age children at 3 months post-treatment. The present study tested the hypothesis that M. vaccae suppresses Th2-type cytokine activity and increases transforming growth factor (TGF)- β1 immunomodulatory activity in these children. Interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, TGF-β1 and interferon (IFN)-γ activity were assessed in resting and stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) isolated from 12 of the children who received M. vaccae in our original clinical trial. A cDNA expression array was used to examine a broader range of cytokine pathway transcripts. There were no significant changes in either Th2-type or TGF-β1 activity. A 5- to 10-fold increase in Th1-type activity was found at 1 month post-M. vaccae administration (P <0.05), but it had returned to baseline by 3 months. The results do not support the hypothesis that M. vaccae reduces Th2-type or increases TGF-β1 activity of PBMC isolated from children with atopic dermatitis. The transient surge in IFN-γ at 1 month is unlikely to explain any improvement in eczema score at 3 months. © 2005 British Society for Immunology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)101-108
    Number of pages7
    JournalClinical and experimental immunology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005


    • Atopic dermatitis
    • Cytokines
    • Hygiene hypothesis
    • Mycobacterium vaccae


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