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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 19;110(8):3059-64. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1217420110. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Neisseria infection of rhesus macaques as a model to study colonization, transmission, persistence, and horizontal gene transfer.

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BIO5 Institute and Department of Immunobiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


The strict tropism of many pathogens for man hampers the development of animal models that recapitulate important microbe-host interactions. We developed a rhesus macaque model for studying Neisseria-host interactions using Neisseria species indigenous to the animal. We report that Neisseria are common inhabitants of the rhesus macaque. Neisseria isolated from the rhesus macaque recolonize animals after laboratory passage, persist in the animals for at least 72 d, and are transmitted between animals. Neisseria are naturally competent and acquire genetic markers from each other in vivo, in the absence of selection, within 44 d after colonization. Neisseria macacae encodes orthologs of known or presumed virulence factors of human-adapted Neisseria, as well as current or candidate vaccine antigens. We conclude that the rhesus macaque model will allow studies of the molecular mechanisms of Neisseria colonization, transmission, persistence, and horizontal gene transfer. The model can potentially be developed further for preclinical testing of vaccine candidates.

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