A transthoracic infection involving a low dose of Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been used to establish a new model of infection in minipigs. The 20-week monitoring period showed a marked Th1 response and poor humoral response for the whole infection. A detailed histopathological analysis was performed after slicing the formalin-fixed whole lungs of each animal. All lesions were recorded and classified according to their microscopic aspect, their relationship with the intralobular connective network and their degree of maturity in order to obtain a dissemination ratio (DR) between recent and old lesions. CFU counts and evolution of the DR with time showed that the proposed model correlated with a contained infection, decreasing from week 9 onwards. These findings suggest that the infection induces an initial Th1 response, which is followed by local fibrosis and encapsulation of the granulomas, thereby decreasing the onset of new lesions. Two therapeutic strategies were applied in order to understand how they could influence the model. Thus, chemotherapy with isoniazid alone helped to decrease the total number of lesions, despite the increase in DR after week 9, with similar kinetics to those of the control group, whereas addition of a therapeutic M. tuberculosis fragment-based vaccine after chemotherapy increased the Th1 and humoral responses, as well as the number of lesions, but decreased the DR. By providing a local pulmonary structure similar to that in humans, the mini-pig model highlights new aspects that could be key to a better understanding tuberculosis infection control in humans.
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