Evaluation of mycobacterial virulence using rabbit skin liquefaction model

Guoping Zhang, Bingdong Zhu, Wanliang Shi, Mingzhu Wang, Zejiao Da, Ying Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Liquefaction is an important pathological process that can subsequently lead to cavitation where large numbers of bacilli can be coughed up which in turn causes spread of tuberculosis in humans. Current animal models to study the liquefaction process and to evaluate virulence of mycobacteria are tedious. In this study, we evaluated a rabbit skin model as a rapid model for liquefaction and virulence assessment using M. bovis BCG, M. tuberculosis avirulent strain H37Ra, M. smegmatis, and the H37Ra strains complemented with selected genes from virulent M. tuberculosis strain H37Rv. We found that with prime and/or boosting immunization, all of these live bacteria at enough high number could induce liquefaction, and the boosting induced stronger liquefaction and more severe lesions in shorter time compared with the prime injection. The skin lesions caused by high dose live BCG (5 x 106 CFU) were the most severe followed by live M. tuberculosis H37Ra with M. smegmatis being the least pathogenic. It is of interest to note that none of the above heatkilled mycobacteria induced liquefaction. When H37Ra was complemented with certain wild type genes of H37Rv, some of the complemented H37Ra strains produced more severe skin lesions than H37Ra. These results suggest that the rabbit skin liquefaction model can be a more visual, convenient, rapid and useful model to evaluate virulence of different mycobacteria and to study the mechanisms of liquefaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-163
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Liquefaction
  • Mycobacteria
  • Pathology
  • Skin model
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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