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Infect Immun. 2004 Mar;72(3):1700-5.

Susceptibility to tuberculosis: clues from studies with inbred and outbred New Zealand White rabbits.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Erratum in

  • Infect Immun. 2004 Jun;72(6):695.


The rabbit model of tuberculosis (TB) is important because rabbits develop a disease that is similar to TB in humans, namely, granulomas with caseous necrosis, liquefaction, and cavities. We describe here a comparison of inbred and outbred New Zealand White rabbits infected by aerosol with either Mycobacterium tuberculosis Erdman or H37Rv strain. Five weeks after infection with either bacillary strain, the inbred rabbits had significantly larger pulmonary tubercles than did outbred rabbits (2.7 versus 1.4 mm in diameter; P < 0.01). After infection with H37Rv, the inbred rabbits had significantly more pulmonary tubercles than did the outbred rabbits (98 +/- 12 versus 33 +/- 13; P < 0.01), with more mycobacterial CFU per tubercle (809 +/- 210 versus 215 +/- 115; P = 0.027) (means +/- standard errors of the means). Compared with histologic examination of lung granulomas from outbred rabbits, histologic examination of those from inbred rabbits showed more caseous necrosis, more visible bacilli, and fewer mature epithelioid cells. The delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses to intradermal tuberculin were significantly lower, and peritoneal macrophages from uninfected inbred rabbits produced significantly less tumor necrosis factor alpha after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in vitro than those from the outbred rabbits (2,413 +/- 1,154 versus 8,879 +/- 966 pg/ml). We conclude that these inbred rabbits were more susceptible to TB than their outbred counterparts and had an impaired ability to contain disease, resulting in more grossly visible tubercles that were larger than those observed in outbred rabbits. Preliminary evidence is presented for a cell-mediated immune defect with lower DTH responses and macrophages that have a decreased ability to respond to in vitro stimulation with LPS or M. tuberculosis infection.

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