Indexed on: 17 Jun '05Published on: 17 Jun '05Published in: Clinical & Experimental Immunology
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis fadD26 mutant has impaired synthesis of phthiocerol dimycocerosates (DIM) and is attenuated in BALB/c mice. Survival analysis following direct intratracheal infection confirmed the attenuation: 60% survival at 4 months post-infection versus 100% mortality at 9 weeks post-infection with the wild-type strain. The fadD26 mutant induced less pneumonia and larger DTH reactions. It induced lower but progressive production of interferon (IFN)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-4 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha. Used as a subcutaneous vaccine 60 days before intratracheal challenge with a hypervirulent strain of M. tuberculosis (Beijing code 9501000), the mutant induced a higher level of protection than did Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG). Seventy per cent of the mice vaccinated with the fadD26 mutant survived at 16 weeks after challenge compared to 30% of those vaccinated with BCG. Similarly, there was less tissue damage (pneumonia) and lower colony-forming units (CFU) in the mice vaccinated with the fadD26 mutant compared to the findings in mice vaccinated with BCG. These data suggest that DIM synthesis is important for the pathogenicity of M. tuberculosis, and that inactivation of DIM synthesis can increase the immunogenicity of live vaccines, and increase their ability to protect against tuberculosis.