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Infect Immun. 2008 Nov;76(11):4952-8. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00511-08. Epub 2008 Sep 2.

Proteomic analysis of Leptospira interrogans shed in urine of chronically infected hosts.

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Veterinary Sciences Centre, UCD School of Agriculture Food Science & Veterinary Medicine, College of Life Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.


Leptospirosis is a global zoonotic disease. The causative agent, pathogenic Leptospira species, survives in the renal tubules of chronically infected hosts, from where leptospires are shed via urine into the environment. Infection of new hosts can present as an array of acute and chronic disease processes reflecting variations in host-pathogen interactions. The present study was designed to reproduce the carrier phase of infection in Rattus norvegicus, thus facilitating shedding of leptospires in urine. Leptospires shed in urine were collected for proteomic analysis because these organisms reflect a naturally virulent form of Leptospira associated with infection of new hosts. Experimentally infected rats remained clinically asymptomatic but shed leptospires in urine for several months at concentrations of up to 10(7) leptospires/ml of urine. Proteomic analysis of rat urine-isolated leptospires compared to in vitro-cultivated leptospires confirmed differential protein and antigen expression, as demonstrated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and immunoblotting. Furthermore, while serum from chronically infected rats reacted with many antigens of in vitro-cultivated Leptospira, few antigens of rat urine-isolated Leptospira were reactive. Results confirm that differential protein expression by Leptospira during chronic infection facilitates its persistence in the presence of a specific host antibody response.

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