Latent tuberculosis infection: Myths, models, and molecular mechanisms

Noton K. Dutta, Petros C. Karakousis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


The aim of this review is to present the current state of knowledge on human latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) based on clinical studies and observations, as well as experimental in vitro and animal models. Several key terms are defined, including "latency," "persistence," "dormancy," and "antibiotic tolerance." Dogmas prevalent in the field are critically examined based on available clinical and experimental data, including the long-held beliefs that infection is either latent or active, that LTBI represents a small population of nonreplicating, "dormant" bacilli, and that caseous granulomas are the haven for LTBI. The role of host factors, such as CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, T regulatory cells, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and gamma interferon (IFN-γ), in controlling TB infection is discussed. We also highlight microbial regulatory and metabolic pathways implicated in bacillary growth restriction and antibiotic tolerance under various physiologically relevant conditions. Finally, we pose several clinically important questions, which remain unanswered and will serve to stimulate future research on LTBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-371
Number of pages29
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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