Brucella neotomae Recapitulates Attributes of Zoonotic Human Disease in a Murine Infection Model

Infect Immun. 2018 Dec 19;87(1):e00255-18. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00255-18. Print 2019 Jan.


Members of the genus Brucella are Gram-negative pathogens that cause chronic systemic infection in farm animals and zoonotic infection in humans. Study of the genus Brucella has been hindered by the need for biosafety level 3 select agent containment. Brucella neotomae, originally isolated from the desert pack rat, presented an opportunity to develop an alternative, non-select agent experimental model. Our prior in vitro work indicated that the cell biology and type IV secretion system (T4SS) dependence of B. neotomae intracellular replication were similar to observations for human-pathogenic select agent Brucella species. Therefore, here, we investigated the pathobiology of B. neotomae infection in the BALB/c mouse. During a sustained infectious course, B. neotomae replicated and persisted in reticuloendothelial organs. Bioluminescent imaging and histopathological and PCR-based analysis demonstrated that the T4SS contributed to efficient early infection of the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes; granuloma formation and hepatosplenomegaly; and early induction of Th1-associated cytokine gene expression. The infectious course and pathologies in the murine model showed similarity to prior observations of primate and native host infection with zoonotic Brucella species. Therefore, the B. neotomae BALB/c infection model offers a promising system to accelerate and complement experimental work in the genus Brucella.

Keywords: Brucella; Brucella neotomae; bioluminescent imaging; brucellosis; murine model; pathogenesis; pathology; type IV secretion system; undulant fever.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brucella / growth & development*
  • Brucellosis / microbiology
  • Brucellosis / pathology*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mononuclear Phagocyte System / microbiology
  • Mononuclear Phagocyte System / pathology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Whole Body Imaging
  • Zoonoses / microbiology
  • Zoonoses / pathology*


  • Cytokines