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Am J Med Sci. 1995 Feb;309(2):92-8.

Molecular biology, virulence, and pathogenicity of mycobacteria.

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Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


The diseases resulting from infections with Mycobacterium species are important sources of morbidity and mortality throughout the world today, with particularly devastating effects in tropical and developing countries. Almost 2 billion people have been infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and approximately 3 million people die each year from this disease. Tuberculosis also has re-emerged as an important public health problem in the United States, and this resurgence has been accompanied by an increased incidence of tuberculosis resistant to the standardly used anti-tuberculosis drugs. Researchers' ability to investigate the molecular basis of the pathogenicity and drug resistance of the mycobacteria has been hampered by a lack of appropriate experimental tools. However, during the past 5 years, tremendous progress has been made in the development of the molecular biology of mycobacteria, and molecular tools are now available for detailed analysis of their genetics and for elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of their pathogenicity. The development of these tools is briefly reviewed, and the uses of the tools to investigate drug resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, to identify mycobacterial virulence factors, and to explore intracellular survival strategies are described.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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