Background: The rabbit model is an ideal means to study the pathogenesis of tuberculosis due to its semblance to the disease in humans. We have previously described the results using a bronchoscopic route of infection with live bacilli as a reliable means of generating lung cavities in sensitized rabbits. The role of sensitization in the development of disease outcomes has been well established in several animal models. We have described here the varying gross pathology that result from lack of sensitization with heat-killed M. bovis prior to high-dose bronchoscopic infection with live bacilli.
Results: Rabbits lacking sensitization did not generate lung cavities, but instead formed solely a tuberculoid pneumonia that replaced the normal lung parenchyma in the area of infection. Extrapulmonary dissemination was seen in approximately equal frequency and distribution in both rabbit populations. Notable differences include the lack of intestinal lesions in non-sensitized rabbits likely due to the lack of ingestion of expectorated bacilli from cavitary lesions. The experiment also employed a modified scoring system developed initially in the primate model of tuberculosis to allow for the quantification of findings observed at necropsy.
Conclusions: To date, no such scoring system has been employed in the rabbit model to describe gross pathology. The quantitative methodology would allow for rapid comparative analyses and standardization of thoracic and extrapulmonary pathology that could be evaluated for statistical significance. The aim is to use such a scoring system as the foundation for all future rabbit studies describing gross pathology at all stages in TB pathogenesis.