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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1999 Jan;60(1):90-3.

Attachment of Burkholderia pseudomallei to pharyngeal epithelial cells: a highly pathogenic bacteria with low attachment ability.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University, Japan.


Respiratory infections are initiated by the attachment of bacteria to pharyngeal epithelial cells. We studied the attachment of Burkholderia pseudomallei to pharyngeal epithelial cells. After one, two, three, and four washes, there were 22.6+/-8.9, 15.7+/-7.0, 6.8+/-3.1, and 4.6+/-1.1 (mean+/-SD) attached bacteria/cell, respectively. If the bacterial concentration was maintained at 1 X 10(8) colony-forming units (cfu)/ml and three washes were done, at concentrations of 2.5 x 10(4), 5 X 10(4), and 1 x 10(5) cells/ml there were 9.9+/-3.6, 3.3+/-0.8, and 2.5+/-1.1 attached bacteria/cell, respectively. If the cell concentration was kept at 2.5 x 10(4) cells/ml and three washes were done, at bacterial concentrations of 1 x 10(5), 1 X 10(6), 1 X 10(7), 1 x 10(8), and 1 x 10(9) cfu/ml, there were 0.3+/-0.3, 0.6+/-0.6, 1.0+/-0.2, 5.1+/-2.3, and 9.6+/-1.9 attached bacteria/cell, respectively. There were 4.8+/-1.9, 5.5+/-2.5, 5.6+/-1.9, and 6.4+/-2.6 attached bacteria/cell at 0, 30, 120, and 240 min of incubation, respectively. Pharyngeal cells from 10 persons (seven men and three women, mean+/-SD age = 30.7+/-8.1 years, 12 experiments with a single isolate) showed that there were 7.8+/-4.3 attached bacteria/cell. It was found that the efficiency of attachment of this bacteria was very low (7.0+/-3.3 bacteria/cell). Electron microscopy revealed that there were no fimbriae but a thin capsular polysaccharide layer on the surface of B. pseudomallei. Attachment to pharyngeal epithelial cells appeared to be mediated by this structure.

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