Persistence of Francisella tularensis McCoy et Chapin tularemia agent in the organism of highly sensitive rodents after oral infection

J Hyg Epidemiol Microbiol Immunol. 1984;28(4):441-54.


In the literature there are no data on the possibility of obtaining in experiment non-fatal tularemia infection (persistence) in rodents highly sensitive to it (Group I) when using highly virulent strains circulating in nature for infection by natural routes. Our detailed experiments on 1483 adult voles Microtus rossiaemeridionalis Ogn. (syn. M. subarvalis Meyer et al.) of laboratory origin using virulent strains of Francisella tularensis holarctica Ols. et Meshch. and natural alimentary infection by feeding on bodies of died animals or forced dosed administration of a mixture of dead and living bacteria to the voles through the oesophagus demonstrated the possibility of the animals to survive tularemia with subsequent long-term chronic carrier state of the infectious agent. They also confirmed the ability of voles to eat readily cadavers of their kin (cannibalism, necrophagia). Experiments with the fully virulent strain 503 and feeding on cadavers were carried out on 439 voles. 203 animals died from acute tularemia, 43 from side effects and 193 survived. Two of the latter (0.5%) exhibited chronic bacterial carrier state, and agglutinins to tularemia microbe (1:320) were found in their blood. From 309 voles subjected to dosed feeding, 153 died from acute tularemia, 27 from side effects and 129 survived. Two of them were bacterial carriers and 6 (1.9%) showed agglutinins (1:160-1:1280). In experiments with strain 165, spontaneously less virulent for guinea pigs, 433 voles were fed on cadavers. 170 of them died from acute tularemia, 53 from side effects, and 210 animals survived. Among the latter, 14 animals (3.2%) were found immune to 100 LD50 of the highly virulent strain 1298. In dosed feeding of 302 voles with the strain 165, 90 animals died from acute tularemia, 59 from side effects, and 153 survived, including 63 animals (20.7%) immune to 100 LD50. The surviving immune voles exhibited seroconversion and long-term persistence of the infectious agent in the internal organs (up to day 257-313--period of observation), accompanied bacteriuria in some cases. Histological examination of the kidney revealed, for the first time, important pathological changes of glomerulonephritis type with elements of pyelonephritis. Protracted stay of the agent in the organism of the vole does not affect its virulence. Persistence of tularemia agent in the organism of voles highly sensitive to tularemia in alimentary administration to them of living and dead bacteria is achieved as a result of anticipatory development of immunological reactions in response to a massive dose of killed antigen, against the background of which the accumulation of simultaneously administered

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae / microbiology*
  • Francisella tularensis / pathogenicity*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Necrosis
  • Tularemia / transmission