• Bacillus of Calmette and Guérin;
  • endometriosis;
  • endometrium

Problem:  To assess the effects of mycobacteria and inflammatory cytokines on proliferation of endometrial stromal cells. An effect on endometrial stromal cell proliferation in vitro may suggest a similar effect on endometriotic cells in vivo.

Method of study:  Primary cultures of endometrial stromal cells were grown from female volunteers. Proliferation of cells was assessed by cell counting and incorporation of tritiated thymidine after exposure to mycobacteria or inflammatory cytokines.

Results:  When assessed by cell counting, stromal cell growth was reduced following treatment with Connaught Bacillus of Calmette and Guérin (BCG) and Pasteur BCG: Mycobacterium smegmatis demonstrated a cytotoxic effect. Addition of the cytokines interferon (IFN)-γ or tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α at high concentrations led to a reduction in cell growth by 24 hr in two of three cell lines. A reduction in proliferation was also found when assessed by tritiated thymidine incorporation, which was statistically significant for Connaught BCG and M. smegmatis.

Conclusions:  Endometrial stromal cells are susceptible to the anti-proliferative effects of mycobacteria. The BCG and other mycobacteria are known immunomodulators in other disease conditions. Further work is required to assess whether these in vitro effects might translate into a useful therapy for endometriosis.