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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Sep 25;98(20):11497-502. Epub 2001 Sep 18.

Divergent effect of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination on Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in highly related macaque species: implications for primate models in tuberculosis vaccine research.

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Departments of Parasitology and Animal Science, Biomedical Primate Research Centre, P.O. Box 3306, 2280 GH Rijswijk, The Netherlands.


Despite the widespread use of bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination, Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection remains globally the leading cause of death from a single infectious disease. The complicated and often protracted dynamics of infection and disease make clinical trials to test new tuberculosis vaccines extremely complex. Preclinical selection of only the most promising candidates is therefore essential. Because macaque monkeys develop a disease very similar to humans, they have potential to provide important information in addition to small animal models. To assess the relative merits of rhesus and cynomolgus monkeys as screens for tuberculosis vaccines, we compared the efficacy of bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination and the course of infection in both species. Unvaccinated rhesus and cynomolgus monkeys both developed progressive disease with high levels of C-reactive protein, M. tuberculosis-specific IgG, and extensive pathology including cavitation and caseous necrosis. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination protected cynomolgus almost completely toward the development of pathology, reflected in a striking 2-log reduction in viable bacteria in the lungs compared with nonvaccinated animals. Rhesus, on the other hand, were not protected efficiently by the bacillus Calmette-Guérin. The vaccinated animals developed substantial pathology and had negligible reductions of colony-forming units in the lungs. Comparative studies in these closely related species are likely to provide insight into mechanisms involved in protection against tuberculosis.

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