Populations of tubercle bacilli of human origin exposed in vivo to pyrazinamide and a companion drug, vanished from the tissues of the mouse in so far as could be determined by microscopy, culture, or guinea pig subinoculation. The vanishing did not represent a complete elimination of the tubercle bacilli from all the animals. 90 days after the completion of treatment, tubercle bacilli could be cultured from approximately one-third of the animals examined at that time. This complete disappearance of the tubercle bacilli thus meets the definition of a truly latent infection in that the infection is present but is hidden beyond the limits of diagnostic reach. All but one of the strains of tubercle bacilli which survived in the animals and were detectable in the posttreatment period, were susceptible to pyrazinamide when tested under appropriate conditions in vitro.
Only two factors could be identified which were essential for the uniform occurrence of the disappearance of tubercle bacilli: the administration of the pyrazinamide in a high daily dosage for at least eight of a total of 12 weeks of antimicrobial therapy; and the concurrent or prior exposure of the microbial populations to isoniazid or in some cases to other antituberculous drugs.
The observations suggest that the ability of pyrazinamide-containing chemotherapies to bring about the disappearance of a tubercle bacillus is closely related to the occurrence of some alteration in the bacillus, essential for maximal pyrazinamide action, in response to environmental influences, including other antituberculous drugs present in the environment.