165. Mycobacterium tuberculosis produces molecules that trigger nociceptive neurons to activate cough
Session: Oral Abstract Session: Science Relevant to ID
Thursday, October 4, 2018: 10:45 AM
Room: S 157
Background: A hallmark symptom of active pulmonary tuberculosis vital for disease transmission is cough. The current paradigm for tuberculosis-related cough is that it results from airway damage or irritation. However, there is limited experimental data to support this theory, and whether Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) induces cough to facilitate its own transmission has not been explored. The cough reflex is a complex and coordinated event involving both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems initiated by particulate or chemical molecules activating nociceptive neurons, which sense pain or irritation. This activation induces a signaling cascade ultimately resulting in a cough. Respiratory nociceptive neurons innervate the airway of humans and most mammals and thus are poised to respond to noxious molecules to help protect the lung from damage. Because Mtb is a lung pathogen, cough is a primary mechanism of Mtb transmission, and respiratory nociceptive neurons activate cough, we hypothesized that Mtb produces molecules that stimulate cough thereby facilitating its spread from infected to uninfected individuals.

Methods: We used an in vitro neuronal activation bioassay to fractionate, identify and characterize Mtb cough-inducing molecules. We also measured cough in vivo in response to pure Mtb-derived cough molecules and during Mtb infection using a guinea pig model.

Results: We found that an acellular organic extract of Mtb triggers and activates nociceptive neurons in vitro with a neuronal response that is as robust as the response to capsaicin, an established nociceptive and cough-inducing molecule. Using analytical chemistry and our neuronal bioassay, we then isolated two molecules produced by Mtb that activate nociceptive neurons. Both the organic Mtb extract and purified molecules alone were sufficient to induce cough in a conscious guinea pig cough model. Finally guinea pigs infected with wild type Mtb cough much more frequently than guinea pigs infected with Mtb strains unable to produce nociceptive molecules.

Conclusion: We conclude that Mtb produces molecules that activate nociceptive neurons and induce cough. These findings have significant implications for our understanding of Mtb transmission.

Cody Ruhl, B.S.1, Lexy Kindt, B.S., M.S.1, Haaris Khan, B.S.1, Chelsea E. Stamm, B.S.1, Breanna Pasko, B.S.1, Luis Franco, PhD2 and Michael U. Shiloh, MD, PhD1, (1)Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, (2)Center for Autophagy Research, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX


C. Ruhl, None

L. Kindt, None

H. Khan, None

C. E. Stamm, None

B. Pasko, None

L. Franco, None

M. U. Shiloh, None

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