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Clin Exp Immunol. 2001 May;124(2):229-38.

Differential requirement for interferon-gamma to restrict the growth of or eliminate some recently identified species of nontuberculous mycobacteria in vivo.

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Division of Molecular Infection Biology, Research Centre Borstel, Centre for Medicine and Biosciences, Borstel, Germany.


In recent years, a number of newly identified species of the genus Mycobacterium (M.) have been isolated from tissues of both immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients, e.g. M. celatum, M. intermedium, M. interjectum, M. bohemicum, M. conspicuum, M. confluentis, M. heidelbergense, M. lentiflavum, and M. branderi. Little is known about their in vivo virulence characteristics and the host factors predisposing to infection with these strains. In an effort to elucidate the pathogenesis of these nontuberculous mycobacterial species, BALB/c and syngeneic IFNgamma-deficient (GKO) mice were intravenously infected with 106 colony forming units of each of these species, and bacterial growth in infected organs and the development of splenomegaly and granulomatous liver lesions were examined for a period of 3 months. Based on their in vivo virulence, mycobacterial strains could be divided into three major groups: (i) Most species examined either grew progressively or persisted at plateau levels in the livers and spleens of immunocompetent mice, and their growth was increased in GKO mice. (ii) M. heidelbergense, M. intermedium and another species not officially accorded separate taxonomical status were eliminated in BALB/c mice, but persisted in GKO mice. (iii) M. confluentis, M. lentiflavum and another novel species were eradicated even in the absence of IFNgamma. Nontuberculous mycobacterial species differed widely in their capacity to induce splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy in GKO mice. In conclusion, IFNgamma is a crucial determinant of infection outcome with most, but not all opportunistic mycobacterial species.

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