Experimental Model to Evaluate the Human Body Louse as a Vector of Plague

Houhamdi, Linda; Lepidi, Hubert; Drancourt, Michel; Raoult, Didier
December 2006
Journal of Infectious Diseases;12/1/2006, Vol. 194 Issue 11, p1589
Academic Journal
Yersinia pestis has been found in human body lice during plague outbreaks. To evaluate the role that the human body louse plays as a vector of plague, we allowed lice to feed on rabbits made bacteremic by intravenous inoculation of 109 colony-forming units of 3 strains of Y. pestis. High mortality rates were observed in all lice 2 and 3 days after infection. The lice remained infected with the strains for their life span and excreted viable organisms in their feces from day 1, although they were unable to lay eggs. The lice infected with 2 virulent strains of Y. pestis transmitted the organisms during feeding to uninfected rabbits, which became septicemic and died of plague (with 1 exception) 1 day later. Infections were transmitted to naive lice that were fed on these rabbits, showing that lice can be vectors of Y. pestis in an experimental model.


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