What is Chronic Inflammation ?


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A micrograph of a tubercle which consists of many darkly staining cells that form a circular structure.
A tubercle is a granuloma in the lung tissue of a patient with tuberculosis. In this micrograph, white blood cells (stained purple) have walled off a pocket of tissue infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Granulomas also occur in many other forms of disease. (credit: modification of work by Piotrowski WJ, Górski P, Duda-Szymańska J, Kwiatkowska S)

OpenStax Microbiology

When acute inflammation is unable to clear an infectious pathogen, chronic inflammation may occur. This often results in an ongoing (and sometimes futile) lower-level battle between the host organism and the pathogen. The wounded area may heal at a superficial level, but pathogens may still be present in deeper tissues, stimulating ongoing inflammation. Additionally, chronic inflammation may be involved in the progression of degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, heart disease, and metastatic cancer.

Chronic inflammation may lead to the formation of granulomas, pockets of infected tissue walled off and surrounded by WBCs. Macrophages and other phagocytes wage an unsuccessful battle to eliminate the pathogens and dead cellular materials within a granuloma. One example of a disease that produces chronic inflammation is tuberculosis, which results in the formation of granulomas in lung tissues. A tubercular granuloma is called a tubercle.

Chronic inflammation is not just associated with bacterial infections. Chronic inflammation can be an important cause of tissue damage from viral infections. The extensive scarring observed with hepatitis C infections and liver cirrhosis is the result of chronic inflammation.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology