Light- and electron-microscopic study of M. leprae-infected armadillo nerves.Int J Lepr Other Mycobact Dis. 1989 Mar; 57(1):65-72.IJ
Lesions in peripheral nerves of armadillos experimentally infected with Mycobacterium leprae were studied by light- and electron-microscopy. Bacilli could be found clearly inside axons of unmyelinated nerve fibers. Heavily bacillated Schwann cells were seen embracing unmyelinated axons with interrupted cytoplasmic membranes. This indicated the initiation of rupture of those cells which were responsible for the liberation of bacilli into the axons. The nerve lesions were divided into three grades according to their severity: grade I showed lesions focalized in the perineurium; grade II lesions were scattered inside nerve tissue; and in grade III lesions the nerve tissues were diffusely affected. No regressive changes, such as fibrosis or scar formation, were seen in the nerve lesions. Bacillated macrophages were not as foamy as those of human lesions, indicating that these bacillated cells were younger or more easily disrupted with a higher turnover than the cells in human lesions. This would promote the spread of lesions in armadillos, and would explain the less foamy appearance of the cells. We found bacilli inside lymphatics surrounding the nerves, substantiating the opinion that lesions spread to peripheral nerves not only by a hematogenous route but also by the lymphatics.