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Infect Immun. 1992 Jun;60(6):2281-7.

Intracellular growth of Afipia felis, a putative etiologic agent of cat scratch disease.

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Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


The organism Afipia felis, which is though to be an etiologic agent of cat scratch disease, is a gram-negative rod that is clearly seen in infected tissue but is very difficult to isolate from clinical specimens; there has been only one report to date of the successful isolation and maintenance of the bacterium on artificial medium. We have found that A. felis will attach, invade via phagocytosis, and multiply intracellularly within the phagosomes of primary human monocytes and HeLa cells. Once in the cell, the bacterium appears to change morphologically, becoming longer and more pleomorphic, and loses its ability to grow on an artificial medium. Unique proteins have been identified in both the intra- and extracellular variants of A. felis. Convalescent-phase sera from patients with cat scratch disease react poorly with intracellular and extracellular bacteria, suggesting a poor humoral response. The tissue culture protocol presented has been used to isolate 14 new strains of A. felis and has for the first time permitted study of the pathogenesis of this unique organism.

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