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Phenotype of Coxiella burnetii Strains of Different Sources and Genotypes in Bovine Mammary Gland Epithelial Cells

Despite the high prevalence of C. burnetii in dairy herds and continuous shedding via milk by chronically infected cows, bovine milk is not recognized as a relevant source of human Q fever. We hypothesized that the bovine mammary gland epithelial cell line PS represents a suitable in vitro model for the identification of C. burnetii-strain-specific virulence properties that may account for this discrepancy. Fifteen C. burnetii strains were selected to represent different host species and multiple loci variable number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) genotypes (I, II, III and IV). The replication efficiencies of all strains were similar, even though strains of the MLVA-genotype II replicated significantly better than genotype I strains, and bovine and ovine isolates replicated better than caprine ones. Bovine milk isolates replicated with similar efficiencies to isolates from other bovine organs. One sheep isolate (Cb30/14, MLVA type I, isolated from fetal membranes) induced a remarkable up-regulation of IL-1β and TNF-α, whereas prototypic strains and bovine milk isolates tended to suppress pro-inflammatory responses. While infection with strain Nine Mile I rendered the cells partially refractory to re-stimulation with E. coli lipopolysaccharide, Cb30/14 exerted a selective suppressive effect which was restricted to IL-6 and TNF-α and spared IL-1β. PS cells support the replication of different strains of C. burnetii and respond in a strain-specific manner, but isolates from bovine milk did not display a common pattern, which distinguishes them from strains identified as a public health concern.


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