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Infect Immun. 2005 Feb;73(2):1106-15.

The capsular polysaccharide of Burkholderia pseudomallei contributes to survival in serum by reducing complement factor C3b deposition.

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Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Calgary Health Sciences Center, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N1.


Burkholderia pseudomallei produces an extracellular polysaccharide capsule -3)-2-O-acetyl-6-deoxy-beta-D-manno-heptopyranose-(1- which has been shown to be an essential virulence determinant. The addition of purified capsule was shown to increase the virulence of a capsule mutant strain in the Syrian hamster model of acute melioidosis. An increase in the number of wild-type B. pseudomallei cells in the blood was seen by 48 h, while the number of capsule mutant cells in the blood declined by 48 h. Capsule expression was shown to be induced in the presence of serum using a lux reporter fusion to the capsule gene wcbB. The addition of purified B. pseudomallei capsule to serum bactericidal assays increased the survival of B. pseudomallei SLR5, a serum-sensitive strain, by 1,000-fold in normal human serum. Capsule production by B. pseudomallei contributed to reduced activation of the complement cascade by reducing the levels of complement factor C3b deposition. An increase in phagocytosis of the capsule mutant compared to the wild type was observed in the presence of normal human serum. These results suggest that the production of this capsule contributes to resistance to phagocytosis by reducing C3b deposition on the surface of the bacterium, thereby contributing to the persistence of bacteria in the blood of the infected host. Continued studies to characterize this capsule are essential for understanding the pathogenesis of B. pseudomallei infections and the development of preventive strategies for treatment of this disease.

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