Caseum: a Niche for Mycobacterium tuberculosis Drug-Tolerant Persisters.

Clinical microbiology reviews, Volume: 33, Issue: 3
June 17, 2020
Jansy P Sarathy JP, VĂ©ronique Dartois V

Caseum, the central necrotic material of tuberculous lesions, is a reservoir of drug-recalcitrant persisting mycobacteria. Caseum is found in closed nodules and in open cavities connecting with an airway. Several commonly accepted characteristics of caseum were established during the preantibiotic era, when autopsies of deceased tuberculosis (TB) patients were common but methodologies were limited. These pioneering studies generated concepts such as acidic pH, low oxygen tension, and paucity of nutrients being the drivers of nonreplication and persistence in caseum. Here we review widely accepted beliefs about the caseum-specific stress factors thought to trigger the shift of to drug tolerance. Our current state of knowledge reveals that is faced with a lipid-rich diet rather than nutrient deprivation in caseum. Variable caseum pH is seen across lesions, possibly transiently acidic in young lesions but overall near neutral in most mature lesions. Oxygen tension is low in the avascular caseum of closed nodules and high at the cavity surface, and a gradient of decreasing oxygen tension likely forms toward the cavity wall. Since caseum is largely made of infected and necrotized macrophages filled with lipid droplets, the microenvironmental conditions encountered by in foamy macrophages and in caseum bear many similarities. While there remain a few knowledge gaps, these findings constitute a solid starting point to develop high-throughput drug discovery assays that combine the right balance of oxygen tension, pH, lipid abundance, and lipid species to model the profound drug tolerance of in caseum.