Mycobacterium leprae fails to stimulate phagocytic cell superoxide anion generation

Timothy J. Holzer, Kenrad E. Nelson, Victoria Schauf, Ray G. Crispen, Burton R. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacterium leprae is an intracellular pathogen that is ingested by and proliferates within cells of the monocyte/macrophage series. Mechanisms by which intracellular pathogens resist destruction may involve failure to elicit a phagocyte 'respiratory burst' or resistance to toxic oxygen derivatives and lysosomal enzymes. We have studied the ability of M. leprae and Mycobacterium bovis BCG to stimulate the generation of superoxide anion (O2-) in vitro by human blood neutrophils and monocytes and murine peritoneal macrophages. M. leprae bacteria failed to stimulate significant O2- release except at high bacteria-to-cell ratios (>50:1) whether or not they were pretreated with normal serum or serum from patients with lepromatous leprosy. Either viable or irradiated BCG, on the other hand, stimulated the three cell types to release significant amounts of O2- when challenged with as few as 10 organisms per cell. Serum pretreatment enhanced the release of O2- by the three cell types. Preincubation for 18 h with viable M. leprae did not inhibit the ability of monocytes to respond with an oxidative burst to phagocytic stimuli. The failure of M. leprae to stimulate phagocyte O2- generation may be an important factor in its pathogenicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-520
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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