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Infect Immun. 2013 Nov;81(11):4271-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00976-13. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Zebrafish as a novel vertebrate model to dissect enterococcal pathogenesis.

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  • 1Krebs Institute, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom.


Enterococcus faecalis is an opportunistic pathogen responsible for a wide range of life-threatening nosocomial infections, such as septicemia, peritonitis, and endocarditis. E. faecalis infections are associated with a high mortality and substantial health care costs and cause therapeutic problems due to the intrinsic resistance of this bacterium to antibiotics. Several factors contributing to E. faecalis virulence have been identified. Due to the variety of infections caused by this organism, numerous animal models have been used to mimic E. faecalis infections, but none of them is considered ideal for monitoring pathogenesis. Here, we studied for the first time E. faecalis pathogenesis in zebrafish larvae. Using model strains, chosen isogenic mutants, and fluorescent derivatives expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP), we analyzed both lethality and bacterial dissemination in infected larvae. Genetically engineered immunocompromised zebrafish allowed the identification of two critical steps for successful establishment of disease: (i) host phagocytosis evasion mediated by the Epa rhamnopolysaccharide and (ii) tissue damage mediated by the quorum-sensing Fsr regulon. Our results reveal that the zebrafish is a novel, powerful model for studying E. faecalis pathogenesis, enabling us to dissect the mechanism of enterococcal virulence.

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