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Can J Vet Res. 1990 Jun;54(3):313-9.

Granulomatous enteritis following oral inoculation of newborn rabbits with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis of bovine origin.

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Department of Medical Science, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706.


To assess the rabbit as a model for the study of paratuberculosis infection, two groups of newborn rabbits were orally inoculated at one to two days of age with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (ATCC 19698 or field strain 22206) and compared to uninoculated controls. Nine of thirteen rabbits (69%) inoculated with ATCC 19698, and all three rabbits inoculated with 22206, experienced episodes of intermittent diarrhea starting four months after inoculation. Multifocal granulomas containing acid-fast organisms were observed in the sacculus rotundus and vermiform appendix of the cecum in three of nine rabbits (all with diarrhea) that had been inoculated with ATCC 19698. Although M. paratuberculosis was not recovered from inoculated rabbits when fecal cultures were incubated three months in vitro, a slow-growing mycobactin-dependent form of Mycobacterium was recovered from feces and ileal tissue after incubation for 11-15 months. Reduced feed intake, body weight loss and reduced abdominal fat at necropsy, were not observed. Epithelial transport function across the distal ileum in vitro was not altered nine months subsequent to inoculation. Diarrhea and the histological lesions indicate that the rabbit may be a useful model for the study of paratuberculosis infection.

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