Immunopathogenesis of pulmonary granulomas in the guinea pig after infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Infect Immun. 2003 Feb;71(2):864-71. doi: 10.1128/IAI.71.2.864-871.2003.


Pulmonary tuberculosis in guinea pigs is similar to the disease in humans and is accordingly widely used as a model to test tuberculosis vaccines. The primary site of expression of acquired immunity and the hallmark of tuberculosis is the granuloma. Granuloma morphology is well described, but there is limited information regarding T-cell subset influx. We monitored the course of pulmonary tuberculosis in guinea pigs and observed four distinct immunohistopathological stages. In all stages there were similar numbers and arrangement of CD4 and CD8 T cells. There were only small numbers of apoptotic lymphocytes, scattered around and within the necrotic core, and acid-fast bacilli were visible both within macrophages and free within airway debris. A key finding of the study was the observation that the development of the necrotic core was an early event and almost certainly preceded the emergence of the acquired immune response. This in turn suggests that innate mechanisms are the basis of the early lesions and that subsequent acquired responses are unable to moderate them. This hypothesis differs from the current dogma that excessive activity of T cells mediates delayed-type hypersensitivity and that cellular cytolysis is the root cause of the necrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Female
  • Granuloma / immunology*
  • Granuloma / pathology
  • Granuloma / physiopathology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / physiopathology*