Animal models for Chlamydia pneumoniae infection

Atherosclerosis. 1998 Oct:140 Suppl 1:S17-9. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9150(98)00115-4.


Animal models are used extensively in the ongoing investigation of a possible causal link between Chlamydia pneumoniae infection and conditions such as asthma and cardiovascular disease. Respiratory infections have been studied in monkeys, while mouse and rabbit models have been used to study both respiratory and cardiovascular infections. The degree of disease induced in mice depends on the strain used, the virulence of the C. pneumoniae strain used, and the dose administered. A characteristic mononuclear pneumonitis occurs, although the infection is systemic and the agent is found outside the lungs, in the circulation, spleen and liver. The infective dose used in the model tends to produce persistent infection, with inflammation continuing after the agent can no longer be cultured from the lungs. In reinfected animals the titre of infective chlamydia in lungs is much diminished, but the inflammation can be quite marked. The continuous persistence of the agent can be demonstrated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or, in chronically infected animals, after immunosuppression with cortisone. New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits provide an experimental model, not only for lung infections, but also for C. pneumoniae-induced atherosclerosis. Three laboratories have now reported that after inoculation, plaques develop in the arterial walls of experimental animals on a normal diet. In addition, one laboratory has reported from their studies on atherosclerosis in apoE-deficient and normal mice, that the persistence of the agent in aortic walls could be seen. Further studies are needed to evaluate the effect of the strain of chlamydia and dosage used, the importance of reinfection, the effect of diet and the effect of antibiotic treatment in these models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / diagnosis
  • Arteriosclerosis / microbiology*
  • Chlamydia Infections / complications
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae / isolation & purification*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Artery Disease / microbiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Haplorhini
  • Mice
  • Rabbits