Cystic fibrosis patients infected with strains from different genomovars of the Burkholderia cepacia complex can experience diverse clinical outcomes. To identify genomovar-specific determinants that might be responsible for these differences, we developed a pulmonary model of infection in BALB/c mice. Mice were rendered leukopenic by administration of cyclophosphamide prior to intranasal challenge with 1.6 x 10(4) bacteria. Five of six genomovar II strains persisted at stable numbers in the lungs until day 16 with minimal toxicity, whereas zero of seven genomovar III strains persisted but resulted in variable toxicity. We have developed a chronic pulmonary model of B. cepacia infection which reveals differences among genomovars in terms of clinical infection outcome.