Lymph nodes are sites of prolonged bacterial persistence during <i>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</i> infection in macaques

by Sharie Keanne C. Ganchua, Anthony M. Cadena, Pauline Maiello, Hannah P. Gideon, Amy J. Myers, Beth F. Junecko, Edwin C. Klein, Philana Ling Lin, Joshua T. Mattila, JoAnne L. Flynn

Tuberculosis is commonly considered a chronic lung disease, however, extrapulmonary infection can occur in any organ. Even though lymph nodes (LN) are among the most common sites of extrapulmonary Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection, and thoracic LNs are frequently infected in humans, bacterial dynamics and the effect of Mtb infection in LN structure and function is relatively unstudied. We surveyed thoracic LNs from Mtb-infected cynomolgus and rhesus macaques analyzing PET CT scans, bacterial burden, LN structure and immune function. FDG avidity correlated with the presence of live bacteria in LNs at necropsy. Lymph nodes have different trajectories (increasing, maintaining, decreasing in PET activity over time) even within the same animal. Rhesus macaques are more susceptible to Mtb infection than cynomolgus macaques and this is in part due to more extensive LN pathology. Here, we show that Mtb grows to the same level in cynomolgus and rhesus macaque LNs, however, cynomolgus macaques control Mtb at later time points post-infection while rhesus macaques do not. Notably, compared to lung granulomas, LNs are generally poor at killing Mtb, even with drug treatment. Granulomas that form in LNs lack B cell-rich tertiary lymphoid structures, disrupt LN structure by pushing out T cells and B cells, introduce large numbers of macrophages that can serve as niches for Mtb, and destroy normal vasculature. Our data support that LNs are not only sites of antigen presentation and immune activation during infection, but also serve as important sites for persistence of significant numbers of Mtb bacilli.

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