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Immune activation is associated with increased risk of tuberculosis (TB) disease in infants. We performed a case control analysis to identify drivers of immune activation and disease risk. Among 49 infants who developed TB disease over the first two years of life, and 129 matched controls who remained healthy, we found the cytomegalovirus (CMV) stimulated IFNγ response at age 4-6 months to be associated with CD8+ T cell activation (Spearmans rho, P = 6 x 10-8). A CMV specific IFNγ response was also associated with increased risk of developing TB disease (Conditional Logistic Regression, P = 0.043, OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.02-4.83), and shorter time to TB diagnosis (Log Rank Mantel-Cox P = 0.037). CMV positive infants who developed TB disease had lower expression of natural killer cell associated gene signatures and a lower frequency of CD3-CD4-CD8- lymphocytes. We identified transcriptional signatures predictive of risk of TB disease among CMV ELISpot positive (AUROC 0.98, accuracy 92.57%) and negative (AUROC 0.9, accuracy 79.3%) infants; the CMV negative signature validated in an independent infant study (AUROC 0.71, accuracy 63.9%). Understanding and controlling the microbial drivers of T cell activation, such as CMV, could guide new strategies for prevention of TB disease in infants.

Original publication




Journal article


JCI Insight

Publication Date



Inflammation, NK cells, Tuberculosis, Vaccines