Infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is accompanied by an intense local inflammatory response which may be critical to the pathogenesis of tuberculosis. Activation of components of the innate immune response, such as recruitment of polymorphonuclear (PMN) and mononuclear phagocytes and induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), by MTB occurs early after MTB infection, however, may persist as the organism establishes itself within granulomas. MTB and its protein and non-protein components are potent in induction of cytokines and chemokines from PMN and monocytes. This review focuses on the interaction of MTB and the host with regard to activation of the innate immune response. It also attempts to identify the potential impact of this early response on the subsequent pathogenesis of MTB, and its role in development and extent of tuberculosis. Insights into the initiation and persistent of the inflammatory response may allow the application of anti-inflammatory agents as adjuncts in the treatment of tuberculosis.