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Infect Immun. 2000 Oct;68(10):5785-93.

Pathogenesis of infection by clinical and environmental strains of Vibrio vulnificus in iron-dextran-treated mice.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610-0266, USA.


Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic pathogen that contaminates oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. In humans with compromising conditions, especially excess levels of iron in plasma and tissues, consumption of contaminated seafood or exposure of wounds to contaminated water can lead to systemic infection and disfiguring skin infection with extremely high mortality. V. vulnificus-associated diseases are noted for the rapid replication of the bacteria in host tissues, with extensive tissue damage. In this study we examined the virulence attributes of three virulent clinical strains and three attenuated oyster or seawater isolates in mouse models of systemic disease. All six V. vulnificus strains caused identical skin lesions in subcutaneously (s.c.) inoculated iron dextran-treated mice in terms of numbers of recovered CFU and histopathology; however, the inocula required for identical frequency and magnitude of infection were at least 350-fold higher for the environmental strains. At lethal doses, all strains caused s. c. skin lesions with extensive edema, necrosis of proximate host cells, vasodilation, and as many as 10(8) CFU/g, especially in perivascular regions. These data suggest that the differences between these clinical and environmental strains may be related to growth in the host or susceptibility to host defenses. In non-iron dextran-treated mice, strains required 10(5)-fold-higher inocula to cause an identical disease process as with iron dextran treatment. These results demonstrate that s.c. inoculation of iron dextran-treated mice is a useful model for studying systemic disease caused by V. vulnificus.

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