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Vet Microbiol. 2005 Feb 25;105(3-4):207-13. Epub 2004 Dec 22.

Development of a Johne's disease infection model in laboratory rabbits following oral administration of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis.

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CSIRO Livestock Industries, Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia.


To assess the rabbit as a model for the study of Johne's disease pathogenesis, a breeding group of adult and juvenile New Zealand white rabbits were orally challenged with three doses of the Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis wildtype bovine strain, CLIJ623, on three occasions. Faecal culture, post-mortem tissue bacteriological culture and histopathology were used to monitor the disease progression in the rabbits for more than 2 years. Of 4 adult and 16 juvenile orally dosed rabbits M. paratuberculosis organisms were recovered bacteriologically from two and three animals, respectively, using the BACTECtrade mark radiometric culture system. Tissue sites from which the bacteria were recovered included the mesenteric lymph nodes, ileocaecal valve, vermiform appendix, caecum, proximal colon and jejunum. Body weight loss, reduced abdominal fat and mild lesions were observed at necropsy in four infected rabbits. Diarrhoea and persistent faecal shedding of bacteria were not observed. Faecal culture did not yield any cultivable mycobacterial organisms on solid media.

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