The physiologic responses of Dutch belted rabbits infected with inhalational anthrax

Comp Med. 2009 Jun;59(3):257-65.


Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, is a category A priority pathogen that causes extensive damage in humans. For this reason, B. anthracis has been the focus of numerous studies using various animal models. In this study, we explored physiologic parameters in Dutch belted rabbits with inhalation anthrax to characterize the disease progression in this model. To this end, we infected Dutch belted rabbits with 100 LD(50) B. anthracis Ames spores by nasal instillation and continuously recorded various physiologic parameters by using telemetry. In addition, samples were collected at selected times for serum chemistry, hematology, and blood gas analysis. The animals exhibited hemodynamic and respiratory changes that coincided with those reported in human cases of inhalational anthrax infection, including hypotension, altered heart rate, and respiratory distress. Likewise, hematology, serum chemistry, and blood gas analysis revealed trends comparable to human anthrax-related pathophysiology. The Dutch belted rabbit model of inhalational anthrax exhibited most of the physiologic, hematologic, and biochemical sequelae noted in human cases. Therefore, this rabbit model fulfills several of the criteria of a useful animal model for studying disease pathogenesis and evaluating therapeutics during inhalational anthrax.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthrax / microbiology
  • Anthrax / physiopathology*
  • Anthrax / transmission
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity
  • Bacillus anthracis / physiology*
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Hemodynamics
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Rabbits
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / microbiology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / microbiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology*