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Vaccine. 2012 Feb 21;30(9):1572-82. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.12.114. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Drug treatment combined with BCG vaccination reduces disease reactivation in guinea pigs infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Mycobacteria Research Laboratories, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin (BCG), the only human tuberculosis vaccine, primes a partially protective immune response against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in humans and animals. In guinea pigs, BCG vaccination slows the progression of disease and reduces the severity of necrotic granulomas, which harbor a population of drug-tolerant bacilli. The objective of this study was to determine if reducing disease severity by BCG vaccination of guinea pigs prior to M. tuberculosis challenge enhanced the efficacy of combination drug therapy. At 20 days of infection, treatment of vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals with rifampin, isoniazid, and pyrizinamide (RHZ) was initiated for 4 or 8 weeks. On days 50, 80 and 190 of infection (10 weeks after drug were withdrawn), treatment efficacy was evaluated by quantifying clinical condition, bacterial loads, lesion severity, and dynamic changes in peripheral blood and lung leukocyte numbers by flow cytometry. In a separate, long-term survival study, treatment efficacy was evaluated by determining disease reactivation frequency post-mortem. BCG vaccination alone delayed pulmonary and extra-pulmonary disease progression, but failed to prevent dissemination of bacilli and the formation of necrotic granulomas. Drug therapy either alone or in combination with BCG, was more effective at lessening clinical disease and lesion severity compared to control animals or those receiving BCG alone. Fewer residual lesions in BCG vaccinated and drug treated animals, equated to a reduced frequency of reactivation disease and improvement in survival even out to 500 days of infection. The combining of BCG vaccination and drug therapy was more effective at resolving granulomas such that fewer animals had evidence of residual infection and thus less reactivation disease.

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