A Bovine Model of Respiratory Chlamydia psittaci Infection: Challenge Dose Titration
This study aimed to establish and evaluate a bovine respiratory model of experimentally induced acute C. psittaci infection. Calves are natural hosts and pathogenesis may resemble the situation in humans. Intrabronchial inoculation of C. psittaci strain DC15 was performed in calves aged 2-3 months via bronchoscope at four different challenge doses from 106 to 109 inclusion-forming units (ifu) per animal. Control groups received either UV-inactivated C. psittaci or cell culture medium. While 106 ifu/calf resulted in a mild respiratory infection only, the doses of 107 and 108 induced fever, tachypnea, dry cough, and tachycardia that became apparent 2-3 days post inoculation (dpi) and lasted for about one week. In calves exposed to 109 ifu C. psittaci, the respiratory disease was accompanied by severe systemic illness (apathy, tremor, markedly reduced appetite). At the time point of most pronounced clinical signs (3 dpi) the extent of lung lesions was below 10% of pulmonary tissue in calves inoculated with 106 and 107 ifu, about 15% in calves inoculated with 108 and more than 30% in calves inoculated with 109 ifu C. psittaci. Beside clinical signs and pathologic lesions, the bacterial load of lung tissue and markers of pulmonary inflammation (i.e., cell counts, concentration of proteins and eicosanoids in broncho-alveolar lavage fluid) were positively associated with ifu of viable C. psittaci. While any effect of endotoxin has been ruled out, all effects could be attributed to infection by the replicating bacteria. In conclusion, the calf represents a suitable model of respiratory chlamydial infection. Dose titration revealed that both clinically latent and clinically manifest infection can be reproduced experimentally by either 106 or 108 ifu/calf of C. psittaci DC15 while doses above 108 ifu C. psittaci cannot be recommended for further studies for ethical reasons. This defined model of different clinical expressions of chlamydial infection allows studying host-pathogen interactions.