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Infect Immun. Dec 1996; 64(12): 4952–4959.
PMCID: PMC174474

Burkholderia pseudomallei activates complement and is ingested but not killed by polymorphonuclear leukocytes.


The mechanism by which Burkholderia pseudomallei is resistant to lysis by human serum is unknown but may include interference with complement activation, effective opsonization, or complement-mediated lysis. We investigated the interaction of B. pseudomallei with complement in the presence and absence of specific antibody to determine potential mechanisms of serum resistance. We demonstrated rapid activation and consumption of complement by B. pseudomallei which, in the absence of specific antibody, occurred predominantly via the alternative pathway. Complement activation was associated with deposition of the opsonically active C3b and iC3b fragments on the bacterial surface. C5b-9, detected on the bacterial surface after opsonic periods of 1 to 60 min, was susceptible to elution by 1 M NaCl, indicating that resistance to complement-mediated lysis may result from deposition of the membrane attack complex in a nonmicrobicidal location. To define the role of opsonins, we investigated the ability of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNL) to phagocytose B. pseudomallei. Phagocytosis of bacteria by PMNL, and the observed oxidative response, was significantly increased by opsonization of organisms with complement and/or specific antibody. Despite opsonophagocytosis by PMNL and the production of an oxidative response, no significant bacterial killing was observed.

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Selected References

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