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J Nutr. 2008 Nov;138(11):2123-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.093740.

Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids modulate resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in guinea pigs.

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  • 1Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis, Texas A&M Health Science Center, College Station, TX 77843, USA.


It is well established that the nutritional status of the host affects resistance to disease. The impact of dietary lipids on experimental pulmonary infection with mycobacteria has not been investigated. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the role of dietary (n-3) and (n-6) fatty acids on immunity and resistance to aerosol infection with virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis in guinea pigs. Weanling guinea pigs were fed purified, isocaloric diets differing only in lipid source, and the effects of diet on specific immune cell functions were evaluated after 3 or 6 wk. Dietary (n-3) fatty acid consumption reduced in vivo skin test and in vitro lympho-proliferative responses (P < 0.05) relative to (n-6) fatty acid consumption. The effect of diet on resistance to mycobacterial infection was assessed by enumerating viable mycobacteria in the lungs and spleens of guinea pigs infected with virulent M. tuberculosis by the aerosol route. (n-3) Fatty acid-fed guinea pigs had more bacteria in the lungs compared with (n-6) fatty acid-fed guinea pigs at 3 (P < 0.05) and 6 wk postinfection (P < 0.01). These data document the immunomodulatory effects of (n-3) fatty acid consumption in the context of tuberculosis resistance. The loss of antigen-specific T-cell functions in addition to impaired resistance to mycobacterial disease suggests a susceptible phenotype in (n-3) fatty acid-fed guinea pigs.

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