Shigella infection is characterized by the induction of acute inflammation, which is responsible for the massive tissue destruction of the intestinal mucosa. A murine model would be a valuable tool for gaining a better understanding of the physiopathology of shigellosis and the host immune response to Shigella infection, but adult mice do not develop disease upon oral inoculation. We therefore attempted to develop a model of infection in newborn mice. Four-day-old mice inoculated with 50 microl of 5 x 10(9) invasive wild-type Shigella flexneri 5a were susceptible to bacterial infection, but mice inoculated with the non-invasive strain BS176 were not. Histologically, 4-day-old mice infected with the invasive strain presented intestinal lesions and inflammation similar to those described in patients with shigellosis. Moreover, cytokine and chemokine responses consistent with inflammation were observed. Lower bacterial inocula induced less severe intestinal damage. In contrast, 5-day-old mice inoculated with either the invasive or the non-invasive strain were not infected. We have thus established a mouse model that is suitable for the study of the pathogenesis of intestinal Shigella infection.