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Infect Immun. 1982 Oct;38(1):212-7.

Intracage ammonia promotes growth of Mycoplasma pulmonis in the respiratory tract of rats.


Ammonia (NH3) from soiled cage bedding is known to enhance the progression and severity of murine respiratory mycoplasmosis in rats. To test the hypothesis that NH3 directly or indirectly enhances the growth of Mycoplasma pulmonis in vivo, pathogen-free F344 rats were inoculated intranasally with 1 x 10(4) to 4 x 10(4) or 4 x 10(6) to 5 x 10(6) colony-forming units of M. pulmonis and exposed to less than or equal to 1.5 or 76 microgram of NH3 per liter (less than or equal to 2 or 100 ppm, respectively). Nasal passages, larynges, tracheas, and lungs from rats killed at intervals up to 28 days after inoculation were quantitatively cultured. Growth of M. pulmonis was much greater in NH3-exposed rats than in controls, particularly in those inoculated with the lower dose. Increases in M. pulmonis populations were more rapid in proximal airways than in distal airways. Serum immunoglobulin G and M antibody responses to M. pulmonis as measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were greater in NH3-exposed rats. In other experiments, the nasal passages absorbed virtually all NH3 when the rats were exposed to less than 380 micrograms of NH3 per liter (500 ppm), indicating that NH3 induced increases in the numbers of organisms in the distal respiratory tract, probably by a secondary, rather than a direct, effect. Also, NH3 exposure did not inhibit pulmonary antibacterial activity as measured by clearance of radiolabeled Staphylococcus epidermidis. The growth of M. pulmonis in vitro was inhibited by 1 mM NH4+ added to the medium as NH4OH but not by NH4+ concentrations of 0.5, 0.1, or 0.01 mM, suggesting that NH3 increases growth indirectly through effects on the host.

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