Given the suspected role of mycobacteria in the establishment of disorders with an autoimmune background and joint damage, a study was conducted to analize whether rheumatic symptoms were likely to be present in tuberculosis (TB) patients. To this end, 330 patients with a bacteriologic confirmation of tuberculosis were investigated for the presence of arthritic complaints. The latter were recorded in five of them with rheumatic symptoms mostly involving interphalangeal and metacarpophalanged joints, and preceding the clinical manifestations of the TB illness. Three out of these five patients remained arthritic by the time of the bacteriologic conversion and fulfilled the criteria for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In the two remaining patients sputum negativization was accompanied by a disappearance of rheumatic manifestations. These patients were also assessed for their peripheral levels of major T cell subsets as well as for the presence of autoantibodies. Comparisons with a series of non-arthritic TB cases, rheumatoid arthritis patients, and controls revealed that presence of rheumatic manifestations was associated with a different profile of autoantibody formation and T cell subset changes. Evidence recorded in the present study indicates that joint affectation in TB is a rare event, being rather the exception than the rule.