Chlamydia pneumoniae has been postulated to cause systemic disease by infection of monocytes/macrophages and spread via the blood or lymphatics. To investigate how C. pneumoniae disseminates, the ability of the organism to infect murine macrophages in vivo and whether infection can be transferred via macrophages were determined. C. pneumoniae was detected by direct plating, isolation, and polymerase chain reaction in alveolar macrophages from intranasally inoculated mice and peritoneal macrophages from intraperitoneally inoculated mice. C. pneumoniae were also detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, but not plasma, of intranasally and intraperitoneally inoculated mice. When alveolar or peritoneal macrophages were adoptively transferred by intraperitoneal injection from infected to uninfected mice, C. pneumoniae DNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction in lung, thymus, spleen, and/or abdominal lymph nodes. These results demonstrate the ability of C. pneumoniae to infect macrophages in vivo and to disseminate systemically via infected macrophages by hematogenous and lymphatic routes.