Spatiotemporal progression of localized bacterial peritonitis before and after open abdomen lavage monitored by in vivo bioluminescent imaging

Surgery. 2010 Jan;147(1):89-97. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2009.05.016. Epub 2009 Sep 6.


Background: Bacterial peritonitis is a life-threatening abdominal infection associated with high morbidity and mortality. The rat is a popular animal model for studying peritonitis and its treatment, but longitudinal monitoring of the progression of peritonitis in live animals has been impossible until now and thus required a large number of animals. Our objective was to develop a noninvasive in vivo imaging technique to monitor the spatiotemporal spread of bacterial peritonitis.

Methods: Peritonitis was induced in 8 immunocompetent male Wistar rats by placing fibrin clots containing 5x10(8) cells of both Bacteroides fragilis (American Type Tissue Culture [ATCC)] 25,285 and bioluminescent Escherichia coli Xen14. After 1 or 2 days, infected clots were removed and open abdomen lavage was performed. In vivo bioluminescent imaging was used to monitor the spread of peritonitis.

Results: Bioluminescent in vivo imaging showed an increase in the area of spread, and the number of E. coli tripled into the rat's abdominal cavity on day 1 after clot insertion; however, on day 2, encapsulation of the clot confined bacterial spread. Bioluminescent E. coli respread over the peritoneal cavity after lavage; within 10 days, however, in vivo imaging showed a decrease of 3-4 orders of magnitude in bacterial load.

Conclusion: Bioluminescent in vivo imaging can be effectively used to monitor the spatiotemporal behavior of the peritonitis during 3 different stages of the disease process: initiation, treatment, and follow-up. Imaging allows researchers to repeatedly image the same animal, thereby reducing variability and providing greater confidence in determining treatment efficacies for therapeutic interventions using a small number of animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroides fragilis / isolation & purification*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Disease Progression
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification*
  • Luciferases, Bacterial*
  • Luminescent Agents*
  • Male
  • Peritoneal Lavage
  • Peritonitis / microbiology*
  • Peritonitis / pathology
  • Peritonitis / therapy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Luminescent Agents
  • Luciferases, Bacterial