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J Infect Dis. 1996 Jul;174(1):105-12.

Comparable growth of virulent and avirulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis in human macrophages in vitro.

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Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York, USA.


The relative virulence and avirulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains H37Rv and H37Ra were previously defined using animal infection models. To investigate host species' specificity of mycobacterial virulence, growth of the 2 M. tuberculosis strains in human monocyte-derived macrophages in vitro was studied. Mycobacterial growth was evaluated by acid-fast staining, electron microscopy, and colony-forming units (cfu) assay. As expected, the 2 strains demonstrated significantly different growth rates in mouse macrophages in vitro (53 h for H37Rv, 370 h for H37Ra). In marked contrast, in human macrophages the average division times of the strains were nearly equal (80 h for H37Rv and 76 h for H37Ra by cfu measurement, and 96 h for H37Rv and 104 h for H37Ra by acid-fast staining). These findings indicate that observations of mycobacterial virulence in murine systems may not necessarily translate to the human system, in which different mechanisms to control mycobacterial growth may be expressed.

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