At varying periods of time following the successful establishment of systemic infections with Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepraemurium in the mouse and the nine-banded armadillo eyes were examined by light microscopy. Inoculation of bacilli was by the intravenous or intraperitoneal route or directly into the hind footpads; eyes were not directly inoculated in this study. During periods of up to 3 years under laboratory conditions no animal showed evidence of impaired vision or blindness, and the external appearance of both eyes was normal. The ocular histopathology and the sites of accumulation of bacilli are described. In immunologically normal mice infected with M. lepraemurium bacilli were much commoner in extraorbital tissues, but they were, nevertheless, found in various tissues within the orbit, including the ciliary body and sclera. In immunologically normal mice (and one rat) injected with M. leprae of human origin no bacilli were found in the eye, but in mice immunologically depressed by thymectomy and total body irradiation considerable numbers of bacilli were present in the iris and ciliary body and also in the limbal cornea. In the armadillo bacilli were found in large numbers in virtually all tissues except the lens, retina, optic nerve, and aqueous and vitreous humours, but the uveal tract was heavily involved. Findings are discussed in relation to the great frequency of ocular involvement and the importance of immune-complex disease in patients with lepromatous leprosy, and to factors wihch may favour the localisation and multiplication of Mycobacterium leprae in the eye.
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