Establishment of a guinea pig model of latent tuberculosis with GFP-introduced Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Isamu Sugawara, Tadashi Udagawa, Toshiaki Aoki, Satoru Mizuno
Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine 2009, 219 (3): 257-62
There exists latent tuberculosis, in which small numbers of tubercle bacilli remain viable in the host without visible granulomatous lesions. As few data exist on the mechanisms of latent tuberculosis, it is important to examine latent tuberculosis in terms of pathogenesis and efficacy of chemotherapy. As a first step, we used green fluorescent protein (GFP)-introduced H37Rv Mycobacterium tuberculosis to establish latent tuberculosis in the guinea pig that provides one of the best animal models of tuberculosis. We inoculated the guinea pigs subcutaneously with 100 or 1,000 colony-forming unit (CFU) of tubercle bacilli. During the 300-day follow-up period after infection, there were no clinical signs of disease, suggesting a lack of visible granulomatous lesions. In fact, upon necropsy, no macroscopic tuberculous lesions were recognized, but histopathological examination of the lung, spleen and liver revealed microgranulomas consisting of epithelioid macrophages and lymphocytes without central necrosis. Importantly, photon imaging visualized granulomatous lesions corresponding to these histologically apparent microgranulomas. Tuberculin skin testing of infected guinea pigs showed strong positivity (> or = 10 mm induration) until the end of the experiments. Real-time PCR analysis showed a significant increase in the expression levels of interferon-gamma, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-12, and inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNAs in infected lung tissues after 300 days (P < 0.01). As human samples are hardly available to study latent tuberculosis, our guinea pig model would be useful for examining the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms of latent tuberculosis as well as for monitoring the results of chemotherapy with green fluorescence emission of tubercle bacilli.

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