Observations are presented on the behavior of populations of tubercle bacilli in the tissues of mice during the administration of antimicrobial drugs. The behavior of the populations during therapy with any particular drug was different depending upon whether the tubercle bacilli were subsisting in the lung or in the spleen. Moreover, the pattern of microbial behavior was distinctive and predictable for each drug studied. Changes in the size of the populations of tubercle bacilli in the tissues appeared to be a more sensitive reflection of drug influence than microscopic study of the number and character of the tuberculous lesions. Nevertheless, in untreated animals, pulmonary lesions evolved and progressed steadily to a fatal outcome despite the fact that the populations of tubercle bacilli had stabilized at a relatively high census early in the course of therapy.
The uniform persistence of tubercle bacilli in the spleen throughout prolonged drug administration was demonstrated with every drug or multiple drug regimens except for pyrazinamide when accompanied by isoniazid. Cultures of the bacilli which survived in the tissues despite antimicrobial therapy were highly susceptible to the drugs employed when tested in vitro. Thus the survival of the tubercle bacilli in the tissues represented microbial persistence rather than drug resistance.
When pyrazinamide and isoniazid were administered together, it was not possible to detect the microorganisms in the spleen or lungs of treated animals. A detailed investigation of this apparent abolition of microbial persistence forms the subject of an accompanying report.