The secret lives of the pathogenic mycobacteria

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2003;57:641-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.57.030502.091033.


Pathogenic mycobacteria, including the causative agents of tuberculosis and leprosy, are responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. A hallmark of these pathogens is their tendency to establish chronic infections that produce similar pathologies in a variety of hosts. During infection, mycobacteria reside in macrophages and induce the formation of granulomas, organized immune complexes of differentiated macrophages, lymphocytes, and other cells. This review summarizes our understanding of Mycobacterium-host cell interactions, the bacterial-granuloma interface, and mechanisms of bacterial virulence and persistence. In addition, we highlight current controversies and unanswered questions in these areas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Granuloma / immunology
  • Granuloma / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / microbiology*
  • Mycobacterium / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium / physiology*
  • Mycobacterium Infections / microbiology*
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / physiology
  • Mycobacterium leprae / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium leprae / physiology
  • Mycobacterium marinum / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium marinum / physiology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology
  • Virulence