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J Infect Dis. 2005 Aug 15;192(4):600-6. Epub 2005 Jul 7.

In vivo phenotypic dominance in mouse mixed infections with Mycobacterium tuberculosis clinical isolates.

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Tuberculosis Research Section, Laboratory of Immunogenetics, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Rockville, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute-NIH Research Scholars Program, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis demonstrate significant heterogeneity in virulence potential in animal models of infection. Isolate CDC1551, for example, has previously been described in mouse survival studies as being hypovirulent, and isolate HN878 has been described as being hypervirulent. Observed differences in this mouse infection experiment have been proposed to reflect differential engagement of the host immune response. To assess whether this is a local or a systemic effect, C57BL/6 mice were infected simultaneously with mixtures of CDC1551 and HN878 in varying ratios and were monitored for mycobacterial growth kinetics, strain proportions during infection, and mouse survival. Strain mixtures that contained primarily HN878 grew more quickly during the first 5 weeks of infection and were more lethal for mice, and HN878 was enriched during in vivo growth. The absolute number of implanted HN878 bacilli at infection correlated inversely with mouse survival and was independent of concomitant infection with CDC1551. In infections of nonactivated mouse macrophages, HN878 grew more quickly. However, phagocyte preactivation reduced and equalized the growth rate of both strains. These results suggest that HN878 exerts a dominant immunosuppressive effect limited to the granuloma in which it is contained.

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