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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Jul;95(1):73-80. Epub 2003 Mar 7.

Increased susceptibility to Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection under hindlimb-unloading conditions.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30310-1495, USA.


It has been reported that spaceflight conditions alter the immune system and resistance to infection [Belay T, Aviles H, Vance M, Fountain K, and Sonnenfeld G. J Allergy Clin Immunol 170: 262-268, 2002; Hankins WR and Ziegelschmid JF. In: Biomedical Results of Apollo. Washington, DC: NASA, 1975, p. 43-81. (NASA Spec. Rep. SP-368)]. Ground-based models, including the hindlimb-unloading model, have become important tools for increasing understanding of how spaceflight conditions can influence physiology. The objective of the present study was to determine the effect of hindlimb unloading on the susceptibility of mice to Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. Hindlimb-unloaded and control mice were subcutaneously infected with 1 LD50 of P. aeruginosa. Survival, bacterial organ load, and antibody and corticosterone levels were compared among the groups. Hindlimb unloading had detrimental effects for infected mice. Animals in the hindlimb-unloaded group, compared with controls, 1). showed significantly increased mortality and reduced time to death, 2). had increased levels of corticosterone, and 3). were much less able to clear bacteria from the organs. These results suggest that hindlimb unloading may induce the production of corticosterone, which may play a critical role in the modulation of the immune system leading to increased susceptibility to P. aeruginosa infection.

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