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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2001;55:139-63.

Nonreplicating persistence of mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Tuberculosis Research Laboratory (151), Long Beach, California 90822, USA.


There is ample clinical evidence, as well as evidence from animal experiments, that Mycobacterium tuberculosis can persist in tissues for months to decades without replicating, yet with the ability to resume growth and activate disease. Our knowledge of both macrophage physiology and the nature of tuberculous lesions in man and animals suggests that hypoxia is a major factor in inducing nonreplicating persistence (NRP) of tubercle bacilli. In vitro models reinforce this conclusion and provide insights into mechanisms that make NRP possible. There is evidence from in vitro models that the strategies employed by the bacilli to permit hypoxic NRP include restriction of biosynthetic activity to conserve energy, induction of alternative energy pathways, and stabilization of essential cell components to lessen the need for repair or replacement.

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