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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Nov; 110(11): 1119–1125.
PMCID: PMC1241068
Research Article

Mycobacterium terrae isolated from indoor air of a moisture-damaged building induces sustained biphasic inflammatory response in mouse lungs.


Occupants in moisture-damaged buildings suffer frequently from respiratory symptoms. This may be partly due to the presence of abnormal microbial growth or the altered microbial flora in the damaged buildings. However, the specific effects of the microbes on respiratory health and the way they provoke clinical manifestations are poorly understood. In the present study, we exposed mice via intratracheal instillation to a single dose of Mycobacterium terrae isolated from the indoor air of a moisture-damaged building (1 X 10(7), 5 X 10(7), or 1 X 10(8) microbes). Inflammation and toxicity in lungs were evaluated 2 hr later. The time course of the effects was assessed with the dose of 1 X 10(8) bacterial cells for up to 28 days. M. terrae caused a sustained biphasic inflammation in mouse lungs. The characteristic features for the first phase, which lasted from 6 hr to 3 days, were elevated proinflammatory cytokine [i.e., tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)] levels in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). TNF-alpha was produced in the lungs more intensively than was IL-6. Neutrophils were the most abundant cells in the airways during the first phase, although their numbers in BALF remained elevated up to 21 days. The characteristics of the second phase, which lasted from 7 to 28 days, were elevated TNF-alpha levels in BALF, expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase in BAL cells, and recruitment of mononuclear cells such as lymphocytes and macrophages into the airways. Moreover, total protein, albumin, and lactate dehydrogenase concentrations were elevated in both phases in BALF. The bacteria were detected in lungs up to 28 days. In summary, these observations indicate that M. terrae is capable of provoking a sustained, biphasic inflammation in mouse lungs and can cause a moderate degree of cytotoxicity. Thus, M. terrae can be considered a species with potential to adversely affect the health of the occupants of moisture-damaged buildings.

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