Local inflammation, dissemination and coalescence of lesions are key for the progression toward active tuberculosis: The bubble model

Clara Prats, Cristina Vilaplana, Joaquim Valls, Elena Marzo, Pere Joan Cardona, Daniel López

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Prats, Vilaplana, Valls, Marzo, Cardona and López. The evolution of a tuberculosis (TB) infection toward active disease is driven by a combination of factors mostly related to the host response. The equilibrium between control of the bacillary load and the pathology generated is crucial as regards preventing the growth and proliferation of TB lesions. In addition, some experimental evidence suggests an important role of both local endogenous reinfection and the coalescence of neighboring lesions. Herein we propose a mathematical model that captures the essence of these factors by defining three hypotheses: (i) lesions grow logistically due to the inflammatory reaction; (ii) new lesions can appear as a result of extracellular bacilli or infected macrophages that escape from older lesions; and (iii) lesions can merge when they are close enough. This model was implemented in Matlab to simulate the dynamics of several lesions in a 3D space. It was also fitted to available microscopy data from infected C3HeB/FeJ mice, an animal model of active TB that reacts against Mycobacterium tuberculosis with an exaggerated inflammatory response. The results of the simulations show the dynamics observed experimentally, namely an initial increase in the number of lesions followed by fluctuations, and an exponential increase in the mean area of the lesions. In addition, further analysis of experimental and simulation results show a strong coincidence of the area distributions of lesions at day 21, thereby highlighting the consistency of the model. Three simulation series removing each one of the hypothesis corroborate their essential role in the dynamics observed. These results demonstrate that three local factors, namely an exaggerated inflammatory response, an endogenous reinfection, and a coalescence of lesions, are needed in order to progress toward active TB. The failure of one of these factors stops induction of the disease. This mathematical model may be used as a basis for developing strategies to stop the progression of infection toward disease in human lungs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016


  • Active tuberculosis
  • Computational model
  • Dynamic hypothesis
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Tuberculosis lesions in lungs


Dive into the research topics of 'Local inflammation, dissemination and coalescence of lesions are key for the progression toward active tuberculosis: The bubble model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this