Resistance of Athymic Nude Mice to Experimental Cutaneous Bacillus anthracis Infection

Watts, Christopher J.; Hahn, Beth L.; Sohnle, Peter G.
March 2009
Journal of Infectious Diseases;3/1/2009, Vol. 199 Issue 5, p673
Academic Journal
Background. Previous studies in a murine cutaneous anthrax model have demonstrated that hairless and haired HRS/J mice are extremely resistant to Bacillus anthracis. Because these mice are relatively thymus deficient, we used C57BL/6 athymic nude and euthymic mice to evaluate the relationship between T cell deficiency and this heightened resistance. Methods. Animals were epicutaneously inoculated with 1 × 107 B. anthracis (Sterne) spores onto abraded skin or injected with the spores intradermally or subcutaneously. The mice were then either monitored for survival or killed for quantitative histological experiments. Results. Athymic mice were found to be markedly resistant to all 3 inoculation routes, compared with euthymic C57BL/6 mice. Athymic mice rendered leukopenic with cyclophosphamide became susceptible. Histological examination demonstrated increased inflammation and absence of organisms in the skin of athymic mice, compared with euthymic ones. The numbers of organisms in the athymic animals increased markedly after cyclophosphamide treatment. Superficial exudate fluids of inoculated skin showed many more neutrophils and ingested bacilli in the athymic mice. Conclusions. These experiments demonstrate that athymic nude C57BL/6 mice are markedly resistant to experimental cutaneous anthrax, apparently because of a superficial neutrophilic response that clears the inoculated organisms before they can invade the underlying skin.


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