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Infect Immun. 1991 Jun;59(6):2207-14.

Intramacrophage growth of Mycobacterium avium during infection of mice.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie, Faculté de Médecine Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


Growth of the virulent Mycobacterium avium strain TMC 724 in host tissues during persistent infection of mice was studied. Following intravenous infection of C57BL/6 mice, the kinetics of bacterial growth was biphasic in the spleen and liver, with a significant reduction of the multiplication rate after day 21 to 28 of infection. An electron-microscopic study of the liver and spleen of infected mice showed that the bacteria were strictly intracellular. They were observed within inflammatory macrophages populating granulomas disseminated in host tissues. The bacteria were confined to the phagosome compartment, and they were encapsulated. Phagosome-lysosome fusions were encountered, but the bacteria showed no visible signs of degradation and continued to multiply. These results are the first in vivo evidence that virulent M. avium multiplies exclusively intracellularly and that encapsulated bacteria resist the microbicidal mechanisms of macrophages inside the phagosomal compartment.

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