Establishment of a New Zealand Rabbit Model of Spinal Tuberculosis

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Study Design:

This was an experimental study.


To investigate and evaluate the experimental method of establishing a New Zealand rabbit model of spinal tuberculosis.

Summary of Background Data:

Establishing animal models of tuberculosis is critical to the experimental and clinical study of tuberculosis, especially spinal tuberculosis. However, the rapid spread of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and subsequent high mortality thwarted their effort. Since then, no animal models have been established of spinal tuberculosis.


Forty-two New Zealand rabbits were randomly divided into experimental (n=20), control (n=20), and blank groups (n=2). Experimental animals were sensitized by complete Freund’s adjuvant. A hole drilled under the upper endplate of the L4 vertebral body was filled with a gelfoam sponge infused with 0.1 mL H37Rv standard M. tuberculosis suspension (in controls, culture medium, and saline). Blank animals received no treatment.


Survival 8 weeks after surgery was 89.5%, 94.7%, and 100% in experimental, control, and blank groups, respectively. The model was successfully established in all surviving experimental rabbits. In experimental animals, vertebral body destruction at 4 weeks was 50% by x-ray; 83.3% by computed tomography reconstruction and magnetic resonance imaging; at 8 weeks, 58.8% by x-ray and 100% by computed tomograph reconstruction and magnetic resonance imaging. At 8 weeks, experimental animals developed vertebral destruction, granulation, and necrosis and 17.6% had psoas abscess. Histopathology revealed numerous lymphocytes and epithelioid cells, trabecular bone fracture, and coagulative necrosis in the vertebrae of experimental animals; bacterium culture was 52.9% positive. Control and blank animals showed no such changes.


A New Zealand rabbit of spinal tuberculosis model can be successfully established by drilling a hole in the upper endplate of the vertebral body, filling with gelfoam sponge infused with H37Rv standard M. tuberculosis suspension after sensitization by complete Freund’s adjuvant.

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