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Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2001;81(1-2):115-23.

In vitro control of Mycobacterium bovis by macrophages.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Mycobacterium bovis is frequently seen inside macrophages in vivo. The outcome of M. bovis infection depends on T cell interactions with macrophages, however mycobacteria are thought to be relatively resistant to macrophage killing. Little is known about the immunological mechanisms which control intracellular growth of M. bovis, and in the absence of T cell help the organism is capable of intracellular survival and replication. We have investigated the role of macrophages in controlling growth of virulent M. bovis or M. bovis BCG in vitro. At a multiplicity of infection of 5:1, macrophages from a range of animal species including cattle, deer, possums, ferrets and mice restricted growth of BCG while M. bovis grew progressively. Inter-species variation in controlling growth of M. bovis by alveolar macrophages was observed. Pre-treatment of macrophages with interferon-gamma and lipopolysaccharide inhibited intracellular growth of M. bovis. Addition of freshly recruited macrophages further inhibited M. bovis, and intracellular growth was arrested by activated fresh macrophages. Our observations suggest that naïve macrophages can prevent BCG growth, while T cell activation in conjunction with freshly recruited macrophages is required for preventing growth of M. bovis.

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