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Dis Model Mech. 2018 Mar 13;11(3). pii: dmm033175. doi: 10.1242/dmm.033175.

Identification of protective postexposure mycobacterial vaccine antigens using an immunosuppression-based reactivation model in the zebrafish.

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BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Medical and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere FI-33014, Finland
BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Medical and Life Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere FI-33014, Finland.
Oral and Maxillofacial Unit, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere FI-33521, Finland.
Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere FI-33521, Finland.
Department of Children and Adolescents, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu FI-90220, Finland.
PEDEGO Research Unit, and, Medical Research Center, University of Oulu, Oulu FI-90014, Finland.


Roughly one third of the human population carries a latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, with a 5-10% lifetime risk of reactivation to active tuberculosis and further spreading the disease. The mechanisms leading to the reactivation of a latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection are insufficiently understood. Here, we used a natural fish pathogen, Mycobacterium marinum, to model the reactivation of a mycobacterial infection in the adult zebrafish (Danio rerio). A low-dose intraperitoneal injection (∼40 colony-forming units) led to a latent infection, with mycobacteria found in well-organized granulomas surrounded by a thick layer of fibrous tissue. A latent infection could be reactivated by oral dexamethasone treatment, which led to disruption of the granuloma structures and dissemination of bacteria. This was associated with the depletion of lymphocytes, especially CD4+ T cells. Using this model, we verified that ethambutol is effective against an active disease but not a latent infection. In addition, we screened 15 mycobacterial antigens as postexposure DNA vaccines, of which RpfB and MMAR_4207 reduced bacterial burdens upon reactivation, as did the Ag85-ESAT-6 combination. In conclusion, the adult zebrafish-M. marinum infection model provides a feasible tool for examining the mechanisms of reactivation in mycobacterial infections, and for screening vaccine and drug candidates.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.


Reactivation; Tuberculosis; Vaccine antigens; Zebrafish

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