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Microb Pathog. 2008 May;44(5):363-9.

Progressive and destructive hair follicle infections in a murine cutaneous anthrax model.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


Hair follicles may allow pathogen entry because they represent potential barrier defects and because there is immunological privilege within actively growing follicles. Experimental cutaneous Bacillus anthracis infections in mice have previously shown prominent organism invasion and proliferation within hair follicles. For the present study, C57BL/6 mice were inoculated with B. anthracis (Sterne) spores onto abraded skin with either anagen (actively growing) or telogen (inactive) hair follicles; skin samples were evaluated by histologic methods and electron microscopy. The infections were found to progress similarly in either anagen or telogen hair follicles, with bacilli occasionally invading deeper sites in anagen hair follicles. The infections progressed from the surface inward, rather than growing outward from within the follicles. Infecting bacilli destroyed the hair follicle keratinocytes and were initially not contacted by inflammatory cells within the follicles. However, at 3-4 days after inoculation, inflammatory cells did contact and disperse the massed follicle bacilli and led to apparent resolution of the follicle infections. Therefore, in this model system B. anthracis initially attacks superficial sites in active or inactive hair follicles and then progresses inward, producing destructive infections of the hair follicles; these infections clear when the massed bacilli are eventually contacted and dispersed by inflammatory cells.

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