Mycobacterium avium is a facultative intracellular microorganism, able to survive and multiply within mammalian macrophages by circumventing antimicrobial mechanisms. In this study we hypothesize that pre-existing M. avium infection could result in macrophage superinfections by other microorganisms. We found that 24 h after ingestion of M. avium at a low multiplicity of infection, macrophages are unable to efficiently produce superoxide anions when over-stimulated with phorbol esters, and that the generation of oxidative burst is only partially restored 72 h after bacteria ingestion. We also demonstrate that intracellular killing of Cryptococcus neoformans is markedly impaired in human macrophages that have previously ingested M. avium (but not other bacteria such as Escherichia coli). This inhibitory effect is observed with live mycobacteria, but not when heat-inactivated bacteria are ingested. In contrast, when Candida albicans is given to macrophages instead of C. neoformans, an enhancement of intracellular killing is observed, suggesting that cytocidal mechanisms other than respiratory burst are involved in the anti- Candidacidal activity of macrophages.
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