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Acta Trop. 2008 Feb;105(2):176-80. Epub 2007 Nov 13.

Rattus norvegicus as a model for persistent renal colonization by pathogenic Leptospira interrogans.

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Gonçalo Moniz Research Centre, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Ministry of Health, Salvador, Brazil.


Leptospirosis continues to be a disease with a poorly understood pathogenesis. The experimental rat model is amenable for the investigation of leptospiral dissemination, tropism, persistence of renal colonization and factors related to disease resistance. In this study, Wistar rats were infected intraperitoneally with virulent Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130. The detection of leptospires in tissue samples was based on culture, silver staining and immunofluorescence techniques. An inoculum of 10,000 leptospires induced colonization in 50% of rats and colonization persisted for the 4-month period of the study. Dissemination kinetics revealed that renal colonization took place 7-9 days after infection, with no underlying histopathology. The peak leptospiral load occurred on day 5 post-infection, followed by rapid clearance in all tissues except the kidneys, where dense leptospiral aggregates persisted in the renal tubules. We conclude that the experimental rat model is suitable for studies contributing towards the understanding of the mechanisms of colonization and resistance to severe disease in leptospirosis.

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