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Infect Immun. 1999 Sep;67(9):4531-8.

Reactivation of latent tuberculosis: variations on the Cornell murine model.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes active tuberculosis in only a small percentage of infected persons. In most cases, the infection is clinically latent, although immunosuppression can cause reactivation of a latent M. tuberculosis infection. Surprisingly little is known about the biology of the bacterium or the host during latency, and experimental studies on latent tuberculosis suffer from a lack of appropriate animal models. The Cornell model is a historical murine model of latent tuberculosis, in which mice infected with M. tuberculosis are treated with antibiotics (isoniazid and pyrazinamide), resulting in no detectable bacilli by organ culture. Reactivation of infection during this culture-negative state occurred spontaneously and following immunosuppression. In the present study, three variants of the Cornell model were evaluated for their utility in studies of latent and reactivated tuberculosis. The antibiotic regimen, inoculating dose, and antibiotic-free rest period prior to immunosuppression were varied. A variety of immunosuppressive agents, based on immunologic factors known to be important to control of acute infection, were used in attempts to reactivate the infection. Although reactivation of latent infection was observed in all three variants, these models were associated with characteristics that limit their experimental utility, including spontaneous reactivation, difficulties in inducing reactivation, and the generation of altered bacilli. The results from these studies demonstrate that the outcome of Cornell model-based studies depends critically upon the parameters used to establish the model.

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