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J Clin Microbiol. 2007 Jul;45(7):2166-72. Epub 2007 May 16.

Enterohepatic Helicobacter species are prevalent in mice from commercial and academic institutions in Asia, Europe, and North America.

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  • 1Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Bldg. 16, Rm. 825C, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The discovery of Helicobacter hepaticus and its role in hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, typhlocolitis, and lower-bowel carcinoma in murine colonies was followed by the isolation and characterization of other Helicobacter spp. involved in enterohepatic disease. Colonization of mouse colonies with members of the family Helicobacteriaceae has become an increasing concern for the research community. From 2001 to 2005, shipments of selected gift mice from other institutions and mice received from specified commercial vendors were screened for Helicobacter spp. by culture of cecal tissue. The identities of the isolates were confirmed by genus-specific PCR, followed by species-specific PCR and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene was performed if the species identity was not apparent. The survey included 79 mice from 34 sources: 2 commercial sources and 16 research sources from the United States and 1 commercial source and 15 research sources from Canada, Europe, or Asia. Helicobacter spp. were cultured from the ceca of 62 of 79 mice. No Helicobacter spp. were found in mice from advertised Helicobacter-free production areas from two U.S. vendors. Multiple Helicobacter spp. were found in mice from one vendor's acknowledged Helicobacter-infected production area. The European commercial vendor had mice infected with novel Helicobacter sp. strain MIT 96-1001. Of the U.S. academic institutions, 6 of 16 (37%) had mice infected with Helicobacter hepaticus; but monoinfection with H. bilis, H. mastomyrinus, H. rodentium, and MIT 96-1001 was also encountered, as were mice infected simultaneously with two Helicobacter spp. Non-U.S. academic institutions had mice that were either monoinfected with H. hepaticus, monoinfected with seven other Helicobacter spp., or infected with a combination of Helicobacter spp. This survey indicates that 30 of 34 (88%) commercial and academic institutions in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States have mouse colonies infected with Helicobacter spp. Mice from 20 of the 34 institutions (59%) were most commonly colonized with H. hepaticus alone or in combination with other Helicobacter spp. These results indicate that a broad range of Helicobacter spp. infect mouse research colonies. The potential impact of these organisms on in vivo experiments continues to be an important issue for mice being used for biomedical research.

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