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Physiol Behav. 1998 Aug;65(1):63-8.

Anxiogenic effect of subclinical bacterial infection in mice in the absence of overt immune activation.

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Department of Surgery, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, MN 55404, USA.


Challenge of animals with infectious microorganisms is well documented to affect a number of behavioral measures through activation of immune-neural mechanisms. In the present study, the ability of an infectious microorganism to directly alter behavioral responses in the absence of an overt immunologic response was examined. Eight-week-old CF-1 male mice were infected orally with the Gram-negative pathogen Campylobacter jejuni in order to establish a subclinical infection that did not result in immune activation. Microbiological examination of cecal contents revealed the presence of C. jejuni in all infected, but not control, animals 1 and 2 days post-oral challenge. Measurement of interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels and peripheral blood leukocyte populations did not reveal the activation of an overt immune response in 1 or 2 day infected animals as compared to controls. Infected mice demonstrated altered levels of anxiety-like behaviors on the elevated plus-maze as compared to controls on Day 2, but not Day 1, as reflected by a significant decrease in exploratory and an increase in nonexploratory behaviors. The anxiogenic effect of a subclinical infection in the absence of an overt immunologic response suggests that the direct activation of neural pathways by microorganisms may play a role in behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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