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Infect Immun. 1996 Sep;64(9):3673-81.

Persistent hepatitis and enterocolitis in germfree mice infected with Helicobacter hepaticus.

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


Helicobacter hepaticus has been associated with naturally occurring hepatitis in certain inbred strains of mice, and in A/JCr mice it has been linked to the development of hepatic adenomas and adenocarcinomas. H. hepaticus was orally inoculated into 30 axenic, outbred female mice, and the mice were studied longitudinally to fulfill Koch's postulates and to ascertain the pathogenic potential of the organism under defined germfree conditions. Ten cage contact mice were also housed in the same germfree isolator to study transmission patterns, and 10 germfree mice were maintained in separate isolators as controls. Mice serially euthanized from 3 weeks through 24 months postinoculation (p.i.) were surveyed by culture and PCR for H. hepaticus in liver and intestinal tissues. Tissues were analyzed for histopathological changes, and sera were assayed for the presence of immunoglobulin G antibody to H. hepaticus and changes in the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase. Inoculated mice and cage contact mice were persistently infected with H. hepaticus as identified by culture and PCR, in both the intestine and, less frequently, the liver, for the duration of the 2-year study. Animals developed persistent chronic hepatitis, and in some animals enterocolitis was noted. Hepatocellular carcinoma was diagnosed in one H. hepaticus-infected mouse. The level of H. hepaticus serum antibody was highest in experimentally infected mice at 12 to 18 months p.i.; this corresponded in general to the time interval when the highest levels of alanine aminotransferase were recorded. Although cage contact mice became persistently infected with H. hepaticus, lesions were less severe and the levels of serological biomarkers utilized in the study were lower. The H. hepaticus-infected mouse will provide an ideal model to study putative bacterial virulence determinants and how they interact with the host to induce chronic inflammation and tumorigenesis.

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