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Infect Immun. 2003 Jun;71(6):3540-50.

Drosophila melanogaster is a genetically tractable model host for Mycobacterium marinum.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305, USA.


Mycobacterium marinum is a pathogenic mycobacterial species that is closely related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and causes tuberculosis-like disease in fish and frogs. We infected the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster with M. marinum. This bacterium caused a lethal infection in the fly, with a 50% lethal dose (LD(50)) of 5 CFU. Death was accompanied by widespread tissue damage. M. marinum initially proliferated inside the phagocytes of the fly; later in infection, bacteria were found both inside and outside host cells. Intracellular M. marinum blocked vacuolar acidification and failed to colocalize with dead Escherichia coli, similar to infections of mouse macrophages. M. marinum lacking the mag24 gene were less virulent, as determined both by LD(50) and by death kinetics. Finally, in contrast to all other bacteria examined, mycobacteria failed to elicit the production of antimicrobial peptides in Drosophila.We believe that this system should be a useful genetically tractable model for mycobacterial infection.

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