Spontaneous healing of **Mycobacterium ulcerans** lesions in the guinea pig model
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
PLoS neglected tropical diseases
, p. 1-12
Buruli Ulcer (BU) is a necrotizing skin disease caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans infection. BU is characterized by a wide range of clinical forms, including non-ulcerative cutaneous lesions that can evolve into severe ulcers if left untreated. Nevertheless, spontaneous healing has been reported to occur, although knowledge on this process is scarce both in naturally infected humans and experimental models of infection. Animal models are useful since they mimic different spectrums of human BU disease and have the potential to elucidate the pathogenic/protective pathway(s) involved in disease/healing. In this time-lapsed study, we characterized the guinea pig, an animal model of resistance to M. ulcerans, focusing on the macroscopic, microbiological and histological evolution throughout the entire experimental infectious process. Subcutaneous infection of guinea pigs with a virulent strain of M. ulcerans led to early localized swelling, which evolved into small well defined ulcers. These macroscopic observations correlated with the presence of necrosis, acute inflammatory infiltrate and an abundant bacterial load. By the end of the infectious process when ulcerative lesions healed, M. ulcerans viability decreased and the subcutaneous tissue organization returned to its normal state after a process of continuous healing characterized by tissue granulation and reepethelialization. In conclusion, we show that the experimental M. ulcerans infection of the guinea pig mimics the process of spontaneous healing described in BU patients, displaying the potential to uncover correlates of protection against BU, which can ultimately contribute to the development of new prophylactic and therapeutic strategies.