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Infect Immun. 2009 Dec;77(12):5252-61. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00824-09. Epub 2009 Sep 14.

Role for the Burkholderia pseudomallei capsular polysaccharide encoded by the wcb operon in acute disseminated melioidosis.

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Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH, Hamilton, Montana 59840.


The capsular polysaccharide of Burkholderia pseudomallei is an essential virulence determinant that is required for protection from host serum cidal activity and opsonophagocytosis. In this study, the immune response directed against a B. pseudomallei capsule mutant (JW270) was investigated in an acute respiratory murine model. JW270 was significantly attenuated in this model ( approximately 2 logs) to levels resembling those of avirulent Burkholderia thailandensis. At lethal doses, JW270 colonized the lung, liver, and spleen at levels similar to the wild-type strain levels and was found to trigger reduced pathology in the liver and spleen. Several cytokine responses were altered in these tissues, and importantly, the levels of gamma interferon were reduced in the livers and spleens of JW270-infected mice but not in the lungs. These results suggest that the capsular polysaccharide of B. pseudomallei is a critical virulence determinant in respiratory tract infections and that it is an important antigen for generating the Th1 immune response commonly observed in systemic melioidosis. Furthermore, the data suggest that host recognition of B. pseudomallei capsular polysaccharide in the lungs may not be as important to the disease outcome as the innate immune response in the peripheral organs.

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