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J Infect Dis. 2003 Nov 1;188(9):1326-31. Epub 2003 Oct 28.

Cell-wall alterations as an attribute of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in latent infection.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Infektionsbiologie, Berlin, Germany.


Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) staining is the key technique for diagnosis of mycobacterial infections; however, a high percentage of patients exhibit positive signs of tuberculosis, as indicated by pathology, culture of mycobacteria, and polymerase chain-reaction analysis, and yet show negative results on ZN staining. In this report we present evidence that such ZN-negative specimens represent Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli in a dormant state with distinct cell-wall alterations: the classical cell-wall composition-dependent ZN staining of M. tuberculosis in lung sections gradually discontinued with persistence of infection, both in mice and in human patients; in contrast, detection of mycobacteria by cell-wall composition-independent staining using a polyclonal anti-M. bovis Bacille-Calmette-Guérin serum continued with persistence of infection. These findings have important implications for diagnosis, as well as for both chemotherapy and development of vaccine strategies.'

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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