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J Med Microbiol. 2010 Aug;59(Pt 8):961-9. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.019117-0. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

Persistent infection of rhesus monkeys with 'Helicobacter macacae' and its isolation from an animal with intestinal adenocarcinoma.

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Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


A novel helicobacter, 'Helicobacter macacae', was previously isolated from a colony of rhesus and cynomolgus monkeys in which diarrhoea from chronic idiopathic colitis was enzootic. A survey performed in a second colony of rhesus monkeys without a history of chronic diarrhoea determined that 57 % were faecal-culture positive for Helicobacter species. Ten years after the survey, one of the animals from which 'H. macacae' had been isolated, a 23-year-old, intact male rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), presented with partial inappetence and progressive weight loss. Subsequent evaluation of the monkey revealed anaemia, hypoproteinaemia, hypoalbuminaemia and a palpable abdominal mass. Contrast radiography suggested partial intestinal obstruction. The animal was euthanized and a diagnosis was made of intestinal adenocarcinoma of the ileocaecocolic junction with metastasis to regional lymph nodes and liver. Microaerobic culture of caecal tissue yielded a helicobacter organism identified as 'H. macacae' by 16S rRNA gene sequencing - the same species of bacteria isolated 10 years previously. The liver, small intestine and colon were also positive by PCR for Helicobacter species. Intestinal adenocarcinoma is the most common malignancy of aged macaques. Faeces or caecal tissue from five out of five monkeys that remained from the original cohort and that were colonized with 'H. macacae' in the initial survey were positive for the organism. The apparent persistence of 'H. macacae' in these animals, the isolation of the bacterium from animals with colitis and the recognition of the importance of inflammation in carcinogenesis raise the possibility of an aetiological role in the genesis of intestinal adenocarcinoma in aged rhesus monkeys.

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