T lymphocytes, particularly CD4+ cells, are thought to play an important role in the immune defense against Mycobacterium tuberculosis through the release of their wide array of cytokines. In vitro studies suggest that Mycobacterium-specific T-cell clones are of the TH1 subtype. Using the technique of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we have investigated the capacity for cytokine gene expression profile in ex vivo circulating CD4+ T cells from 20 patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis compared with that of 30 normal healthy tuberculin-positive volunteers. Venous blood samples were collected from the former prior to the initiation of chemotherapy. A significant increase in interleukin (IL-2) expression (p< 0.001) and a significant decrease in IL-5 expression (p<0.0001) were observed in patients with tuberculosis but no differences were seen in the expression of IL-4 and interferon gamma between the two study groups. Our data support a TH1-like immune response in active tuberculosis.