Mycobacterium immunogenum causes hypersensitivity pneumonitis-like pathology in mice

Inhal Toxicol. 2006 May;18(6):449-56. doi: 10.1080/08958370600563904.


A surprising number of cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis have been observed at work sites employing automotive machinists. Because hypersensitivity pneumonitis is not typically associated with exposure to metalworking fluid aerosols, this study examined whether Mycobacterium immunogenum (M. immunogenum), a rapidly growing mycobacterium isolated from several affected work sites, could induce hypersensitivity pneumonitis in mice. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis-like histologic changes occurred in mice treated with heat-killed and lysed M. immunogenum. These lung lesions were characterized by peribronchial and perivascular lymphohistiocytic inflammation and noncaseating granulomas in the parenchyma. The pathologic changes observed in mice instilled with M. immunogenum-contaminated used metalworking fluid were indistinguishable from those observed with M. immunogenum alone. The role of genetic factors in M. immunogenum-induced lung lesions was examined by comparison of the response of eight inbred strains of mice. The observed immunologic changes in the lung were significantly greater in C57Bl/6, 129, and BALB/c mice than in the other strains, suggesting that genetic factor(s) contribute to the susceptibility of workers exposed to M. immunogenum-contaminated metalworking fluid aerosols. Thus, these studies provide indirect evidence that M. immunogenum is an unrecognized class of microorganisms capable of causing hypersensitivity pneumonitis and plays a role in the outbreaks of hypersensitivity pneumonitis in automotive plants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / etiology*
  • Animals
  • Automobiles
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Metals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Mycobacterium Infections / complications*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Microbiology*


  • Aerosols
  • Metals