Objectives: Of the non-tuberculous mycobacteria, Mycobacterium abscessus is particularly refractory to antimicrobial therapy and new agents with activity against these pathogens are urgently needed. The screening of candidate antimicrobial agents against M. abscessus requires a relevant and reproducible animal model of chronic infection. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor knockout (GM-CSF KO) mice were used to develop a new animal model of chronic pulmonary M. abscessus infection that can be used for preclinical efficacy testing of antimicrobial drugs.
Methods: GM-CSF KO mice were infected with a clinical isolate of M. abscessus via intrapulmonary aerosol delivery using a microsprayer device. The clinical condition, histology and cfu of M. abscessus-infected GM-CSF KO mice were evaluated over a period of 4 months. Mice were treated with azithromycin (100 mg/kg) by oral gavage and the clinical condition, histology and bacterial burden was determined after 2 weeks of treatment.
Results: We show that pulmonary infection of GM-CSF KO mice with M. abscessus results in a chronic pulmonary infection that lends itself to preclinical testing of new antimicrobial drugs against this bacterium. Azithromycin treatment of M. abscessus-infected GM-CSF KO mice resulted in a lower bacterial burden in the lungs and spleen, weight gain and significant improvement in lung pathology.
Conclusions: Intrapulmonary aerosol infection of GM-CSF KO mice with M. abscessus is a useful animal model for studying pathogenesis as well as pre-clinical testing of new compounds against M. abscessus in acute or chronic phases of infection.
Keywords: M. abscessus; drug treatment; macrolides; mouse model.