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Vet Microbiol. 1998 Aug 15;62(4):251-63.

Experimental Chlamydia psittaci serotype 1 enteric infection in gnotobiotic piglets: histopathological, immunohistochemical and microbiological findings.

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Institute of Veterinary Pathology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


The enteric pathogenicity of the ovine C. psittaci serotype 1 isolate S26/3 was assessed using a litter of gnotobiotic piglets. In one group, eight piglets were inoculated at 3 days of age; at 10 days, two of these were re-inoculated. In a second group, six animals were mock-inoculated at 3 days of age as negative controls; subsequently, at 10 days, three of these piglets were inoculated with C. psittaci. The animals were observed for clinical signs, killed and necropsied sequentially between 4 and 17 days of age. At necropsy, specimens were collected for histopathology, immunohistochemistry and serology. Clinical manifestations consisted of sporadic slight softening of faeces observed between 8 and 12 days post inoculation (d.p.i.) in pigs inoculated at 3 days of age and between 4 and 6 d.p.i. in those inoculated at day 10. Histopathological changes were minimal and inconsistent and occurred almost exclusively in the small intestine in pigs of 15 days of age and older; they consisted of a slight shortening of villi, of a small number of tongue-shaped villi and of villous fusions. Immunohistochemistry revealed small numbers of chlamydial inclusions in the small intestinal enterocytes of only five pigs, all killed within 5 d.p.i. An ELISA run on faecal samples collected daily after inoculation from six of the pigs showed that chlamydial antigen was excreted in the faeces. In pigs inoculated at 3 days, chlamydial antigen was detected inconsistently before, and consistently after 9 d.p.i. Pigs inoculated at 10 days excreted antigen consistently after inoculation until the end of their observation period (8 d.p.i.). Infective chlamydiae were detected from the faeces of inoculated piglets using Vero cell cultures. Sera of all pigs were negative for anti-chlamydial antibodies using a complement fixation test. In conclusion, enteric pathogenicity of C. psittaci serotype 1 in a litter of gnotobiotic piglets proved minimal. The results, therefore, indicate that serotype 1 C. psittaci is not likely to cause enteric disease in conventionally reared pigs. Nevertheless, a potential role of swine in the epidemiology of this agent should be considered with regard to spread of Chlamydia to other species.

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