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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 139127, 14 pages
Review Article

The Tuberculous Granuloma: An Unsuccessful Host Defence Mechanism Providing a Safety Shelter for the Bacteria?

INSERM U892, CNRS UMR 6299, Université de Nantes, 44007 Nantes Cedex 1, France

Received 9 December 2011; Revised 16 April 2012; Accepted 30 April 2012

Academic Editor: E. Shevach

Copyright © 2012 Mayra Silva Miranda et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


One of the main features of the immune response to M. Tuberculosis is the formation of an organized structure called granuloma. It consists mainly in the recruitment at the infectious stage of macrophages, highly differentiated cells such as multinucleated giant cells, epithelioid cells and Foamy cells, all these cells being surrounded by a rim of lymphocytes. Although in the first instance the granuloma acts to constrain the infection, some bacilli can actually survive inside these structures for a long time in a dormant state. For some reasons, which are still unclear, the bacilli will reactivate in 10% of the latently infected individuals, escape the granuloma and spread throughout the body, thus giving rise to clinical disease, and are finally disseminated throughout the environment. In this review we examine the process leading to the formation of the granulomatous structures and the different cell types that have been shown to be part of this inflammatory reaction. We also discuss the different in vivo and in vitro models available to study this fascinating immune structure.