[Frontiers in Bioscience 3, d525-531, June 8, 1998]

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Venkata M. Reddy

Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Rm 864, M/C 735, 808 S.Wood st., Chicago, IL 60612

Received 5/4/98 Accepted 5/8/98


Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) group of microorganisms are the most common opportunistic bacterial pathogens causing disseminated disease in HIV infected patients. These microorganisms are ubiquitous in nature, and are acquired by respiratory and oral routes. Pathogenesis of MAC depends on the ability of the organisms to colonize intestinal/respiratory mucosa, penetrate the protective barriers and resist intracellular killing by macrophages. Transient and reversible variation of colony morphology is one the characteristic feature of MAC that plays a significant role in the virulence and pathogenesis of these microorganisms. Isogenic colony variants of MAC differ in their virulence, susceptibility to antibiotics, stimulation of oxygen radicals and cytokines. The virulent smooth transparent colony variants are more frequently isolated from AIDS patients, more efficient in mucosal colonization, and adhere more efficiently to epithelial cells as compared to the less virulent smooth opaque variants. However, both the isogenic variants bind to the mucosal epithelial cells through the same multiple receptors. In addition, both the isogenic variants of MAC also bind to intestinal mucus through a single receptor. Study of the interaction of MAC with the host cells and characterization of MAC adhesins and host cell receptors facilitates the elucidation of the mechanisms involved in MAC pathogenesis.