British Leprosy Relief Association
Development of a Mouse Food Pad Model for Detection of Sub Clinical Leprosy
aDepartment of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care, National Hansen’s Disease Program, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
bDepartment of Infectious Diseases, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
cInfectious Disease Research Institute, Seattle, WA, USA
dDepartment of Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Correspondence to: James L. Krahenbuhl, Ph.D., Director, National Hansen’s Disease Programs, 1770 Physicians Park Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70816, 225-326-8120 (e-mail: email@example.com)
Early diagnosis of leprosy and a multi-drug therapy (MDT) regimen will block the trajectory of nerve damage, disability and deformity that are the hallmarks of this chronic disease. However, the diagnosis of leprosy is made solely by recognition of clinical signs and symptoms, requiring special expertise. These limitations also result in the under reporting of worldwide prevalence and incidence rates for leprosy. Sorely needed is an objective laboratory test for detecting early leprosy. As the antigenic burden of M. leprae can be virtually undetectable in early clinical leprosy, cell mediated immunity and antibody responses will likely be weak. So the sensitivity of new diagnostic tests is as important as specificity. Major efforts are underway employing recombinant M. leprae antigens and synthetic peptides, to develop diagnostic assays for early leprosy infection, using in vitro T cell reactivity or serological tests. We have used the initial phase of the mouse foot pad model as an ‘early’ model of leprosy infection to screen T cell responses against M. leprae specific antigens and synthetic peptides. Unlike human disease in animal models we can control infection progress and monitor bacillary growth relative to time course of development of T cell response to specific M. leprae antigens. The study employed splenic T cells instead of draining lymph node T cells to model the systemic response as opposed to a local one. We found that 105 live M. leprae is the minimum dose required for any meaningful and consistent in vitro splenic IFN-γ response against M. leprae antigens 3 months after foot pad inoculation. Using this model we found that several M. leprae recombinant proteins, ML0840, ML2028, ML2307, ML2346, ML2478, and ML2532, induced significant levels of IFN-γ secretion. By controlling for variables that can be confounding factors in the sensitivity of human testing, this mouse model provides an interface between M. leprae diagnostic antigen development and the screening of these antigens in humans under field conditions.