Patients with newly diagnosed, pulmonary tuberculosis had a tuberculin-specific defect in IL-2 production. Mean PPD-induced IL-2 activity was 81.2% lower in patients as compared with healthy tuberculin reactors. PPD-induced expression of T cell IL-2 receptors was 5.9 times less in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with tuberculosis as compared with healthy tuberculin reactors. Furthermore, purified IL-2 failed to correct PPD-induced blastogenesis in patients. Suppression by adherent cells was operative in one group of patients; adherent cell depletion increased their T cell production of IL-2 7.2-fold. A second group of patients with low IL-2 production did not have suppressor adherent cells and were clinically distinct, with more extensive disease on chest x ray. The basis for low IL-2 production in such individuals is unknown. Disordered regulation of IL-2 metabolism may be a key feature in the depressed cellular immune response of tuberculosis.