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A comparison of virulence of two strains of Legionella pneumophila based on experimental aerosol infection of guinea-pigs

  • R. I. Jepras (a1), R. B. Fitzgeorge (a1) and A. Baskerville (a1)

Summary

Two strains of Legionella pneumophila (LP) serogroup I, of differing virulence, were examined in terms of numbers of viable organisms in tissues, pyrexia and mortality following aerosol infection. The Corby strain was the more virulent, with Pyrexia and deaths of guinea-pigs 3 to 6 days after infection. This strain multiplied very rapidly in the lungs to reach a peak of 5 × 1011 viable organisms/lung. Organisms were present in the blood, liver, spleen and kidney. The Philadelphia-1 strain (NCTC 11192) was unable to replicate in the lung and was cleared between 14 and 21 days after infection. Pyrexia was not observed. No guinea-pigs died and viable LP was not found in any organ other than the lung.

Lung lavages on aerosol infected animals were performed and the virulent Corby strain was found to be mainly intracellular. The avirulent Philadelphia-1 strain was found predominantly in the extracellular location. There were approximately 10 times the number of viable virulent LP in the lung macrophage fraction than in the lung PMNL fraction. In comparison, there were approximately equal numbers of the viable avirulent strain in the macrophages and the PMNL. Experimental evidence suggests that the macrophage preferentially supports the growth of the virulent Corby strain compared with the PMNL. The avirulent strain on the other hand appears to be destroyed by both the macrophages and the PMNL.

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References

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