Depleting thymectomized mice of CD4+ T cells, or CD4+ plus CD8+ T cells, rendered them incapable of resolving Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin (BCG) infection in their lives, spleens, kidneys, and lungs. However, it did not render them incapable of stabilizing infection in the latter three organs after an initial period of BCG growth. Athymic nude mice showed a similar capacity to control BCG growth in these organs after a certain stage of infection. In contrast, congenitally severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice appeared to offer no resistance to BCG infection, in that the organism grew progressively in all organs of these mice and was lethal for them beginning on day 55 of infection. The results suggest that, although CD4+ T cells are important for resolving BCG infection, an alpha/beta T cell-independent mechanism of resistance can be acquired at 2-3 wk of infection that is capable of inhibiting further BCG growth in all organs except the lungs. Because this mechanism is absent from SCID mice, it is likely that it depends on the functions of gamma/delta T cells, B cells, or both types of cells. In keeping with this possibility is the additional finding that SCID mice engrafted with lymph node cells depleted of CD4+ or CD8+ T cells were capable of expressing an appreciable level of resistance against BCG infection.

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