Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an androgen synthesized by the adrenal cortex, which is an intermediary in the biosynthesis of sex hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol.
DHEA mostly circulates as a conjugated ester, in the form of sulfate (DHEA-S). There exist several endogenous factors able to influence its synthesis, the most common ones being the corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH), growth factors, and proinflammatory cytokines, among others. Like other steroid hormones, DHEA, can alter the functioning of immune cells and therefore the course of diseases exhibiting an immune-inflammatory component, mostly from autoimmune or infectious nature.
We herein review the role played by DHEA during a major infectious disease like tuberculosis (TB). Data recorded from TB patients, mouse models, or in vitro studies show that DHEA is likely to be implied in better disease control. This provides a stimulating background for carrying out clinical studies aimed at assessing the usefulness of DHEA as an adjuvant in TB patients.