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J Immunol. 1989 Nov 1;143(9):2837-43.

Effect of a single exposure to ultraviolet radiation on Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin infection in mice.

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Department of Immunology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


BALB/c and C3H mice were exposed on the dorsal skin to 45 kJ/m2 of UVB radiation from FS-40 sunlamps 3 days before infection with 1 x 10(6) live units of Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) (Tice strain) in the footpad. At regular intervals, groups of mice were tested for a delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to the purified protein derivative (PPD) of tubercle bacilli, and the course of infection was monitored by measuring the size of the infected footpad, enlargement of the draining lymph node, and the number of bacteria in the spleen and lymph node. In both strains the DTH response to PPD was significantly delayed in UV-treated mice compared to unirradiated mice, when tested 21 and 42 days after BCG infection. By day 50, no significant difference was detected in the DTH response between irradiated and unirradiated mice. UV treatment reduced the size of the lymph node draining the site of BCG infection in both strains of mice and the size of the infected footpad in C3H mice but not in BALB/c mice. In both strains of mice the total number of bacteria in the spleen and the draining lymph node increased after UV irradiation. When irradiated 3, 5, 18, or 21 days after BCG infection, BALB/c mice also showed a significant decrease in their DTH response to PPD, indicating that the UV-induced suppression of BCG occurs both at the induction and the elicitation stages of the immune response. Thus, mice exposed to a single dose of UV radiation either before or after BCG infection showed an impaired DTH response to mycobacteria, which was accompanied by an increase in the multiplication of bacteria in the tissues, even though the organisms were introduced at an unirradiated site. These studies demonstrate that a systemic effect of UV irradiation can interfere with the development and expression of immunity to pathogenic bacteria in mice.

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