Send to

Choose Destination
Infect Immun. 1997 Aug;65(8):3317-27.

Pathogenesis of tuberculosis in mice exposed to low and high doses of an environmental mycobacterial saprophyte before infection.

Author information

Department of Pathology, Instituto Nacional de la Nutricion Salvador Zubiran, Mexico City, Mexico.


Mycobacteria are ubiquitous in the environment, but they are not part of the normal human microbial flora. It has been suggested that variable contact with mycobacteria can influence susceptibility to mycobacterial pathogens and the efficacy of subsequent Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccination. To test this, mice were immunized with high or low doses of an environmental saprophyte, M. vaccae, that is intensely immunogenic as an autoclaved preparation. Two months later, they received an intratracheal challenge with M. tuberculosis H37Rv. Recipients of a low Th1-inducing dose (10(7) organisms) were partially protected and maintained a high ratio of interleukin 2 (IL-2)-positive to IL-4-positive cells in the perivascular, peribronchial, and granulomatous areas of the lung, whereas in unimmunized controls the IL-4-positive cells increased markedly between days 21 and 28. In contrast, recipients of the high dose (10(9) organisms), which primes Th2 as well as Th1 cytokine production, died more rapidly than unimmunized controls and showed massive pneumonia from day 7. The ratio of IL-2-positive to IL-4-positive cells in all compartments of the lung rapidly fell to 1 by day 14 for these animals. These events correlated with cytokine mRNA profiles and with increases in the local toxicity of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), demonstrable only when a major Th2 component was present. These data indicate that cross-reactive epitopes present in an environmental saprophyte can evoke either protective responses or responses that increase susceptibility to M. tuberculosis. The latter are associated with the presence of a Th2 component and increased sensitivity to TNF-alpha.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center