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Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading infectious cause of death globally. Drug treatment and vaccination, in particular with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), remain the main strategies to control TB. With the emergence of drug resistance, it has been proposed that a combination of TB vaccination with pharmacological treatment may provide a greater therapeutic value. We implemented an ex vivo mycobacterial growth inhibition assay (MGIA) to discriminate vaccine responses in historically BCG-vaccinated human volunteers and to assess the contribution of vaccine-mediated immune response towards the killing effect of mycobacteria in the presence of the antibiotics isoniazid (INH) and rifampicin (RIF), in an attempt to develop the assay as a screening tool for therapeutic TB vaccines. BCG vaccination significantly enhanced the ability of INH to control mycobacterial growth ex vivo. The BCG-vaccinated group displayed a higher production of IFN-γ and IP-10 when peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were co-cultured with INH, with a similar trend during co-culture with RIF. A higher frequency of IFN-γ+ and TNF-α+ CD3- CD4- CD8- cells was observed, suggesting the contribution of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the combined effect between BCG vaccination and INH. Taken together, our data indicate the efficacy of INH can be augmented following historical BCG vaccination, which support findings from previous observational and animal studies.

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