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Is tuberculosis a lymphatic disease with a pulmonary portal?
- Behr, Marcel A., Waters, W. Ray
- ARS USDA Submissions 2014 v.14 no.3 pp. 250
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis, animal models, hosts, human diseases, humans, immunity, lungs, lymph nodes, pathogens, respiratory tract diseases, tuberculosis
- Tuberculosis most commonly presents as a pulmonary disease, in which infection, persistence, and induction of transmissible pathology all occur in the lungs. If viewed as a pulmonary disease, enlarged lymph nodes represent reactive adenitis, and extrapulmonary forms of tuberculosis (including lymphatic tuberculosis) are not transmissible, hence representing an evolutionary dead-end for the pathogen. In an alternative theory, Mycobacterium tuberculosis passes asymptomatically through the lungs and rapidly establishes a chronic lymphatic infection. After a period of weeks to decades secondary lung pathology develops, ultimately allowing transmission to occur. Evidence that supports this lymphatic model includes historical descriptions of human tuberculosis from the preantibiotic era, analogy with other mycobacterial infections, observations of tuberculosis in non-human hosts, and experimental models of tuberculosis disease. At a fundamental level, a lymphocentric model proposes that spread of organisms outside the lung parenchyma is essential to induce adaptive immunity, which is crucial for the generation of transmissible pathology. Furthermore, a lymphatic model could explain why the lesion associated with primary infection (Ghon focus) is anatomically separated from the most common site of reactivation disease (the apex). More practically, an alternative perspective that classes tuberculosis as a lymphatic disease might affect strategies for preclinical and clinical assessment of novel diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines.