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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Jun;44(5):1185-97.

Characterization of Burkholderia pseudomallei infection and identification of novel virulence factors using a Caenorhabditis elegans host system.

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Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260, Republic of Singapore.


The environmental saphrophyte Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a systemic, potentially life-threatening condition endemic to many parts of south-east Asia and northern Australia. We have used the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model host to characterize the mechanisms by which this bacterium mounts a successful infection. We find that C. elegans is susceptible to a broad range of Burkholderia species, and that the virulence mechanisms used by this pathogen to kill nematodes may be similar to those used to infect mammals. We also find that the specific dynamics of the C. elegans-B. pseudomallei host-pathogen interaction can be highly influenced by environmental factors, and that nematode killing results at least in part from the presence of a diffusible toxin. Finally, by screening for bacterial mutants attenuated in their ability to kill C. elegans, we genetically identify several new potential virulence factors in B. pseudomallei. The use of C. elegans as a model host should greatly facilitate future investigations into how B. pseudomallei can interact with host organisms.

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