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Open Access Diminished Reproduction, Failure to Thrive, and Altered Immunologic Function in a Colony of T-Cell Receptor Transgenic Mice: Possible Role of Citrobacter rodentium

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Citrobacter rodentium from an undetermined source was detected in a breeding colony of T-cell receptor transgenic mice housed in a conventional mouse facility in which murine hepatitis virus had been endemic and Helicobacter spp. had been detected. Citrobacter rodentium, isolated from blood, spleen, and colon, correlated with a significant increase in mortality and morbidity in this breeding colony. Transgenic mice of all ages were affected by chronic debilitation, loss in reproductive efficiency, rectal prolapse, and acute death, resulting in the near loss of these noncommercially available strains. Several alterations in immunologic parameters were observed, including outgrowth of an unusual population of cells in the spleen and blood, reduction in ascites production, loss of the capacity of peritoneal exudate cells to serve as feeders for the cloning of long-term T-cell lines, and inhibition of antigen-specific cytotoxic T-cell activity. These altered immune functions also were apparent in commercially-derived nontransgenic mice cohoused with the infected colony and in overtly healthy transgenic and nontransgenic littermates. Citrobacter rodentium and murine hepatitis virus were eliminated ultimately on rederivation of the affected strains by embryo transfer. However, the rapid decrease in the health of the colony necessitated more immediate action. To reduce mortality and allow breeding to continue during rederivation of the transgenic lines, animals were treated with enrofloxacin and moved to a barrier facility. Antibiotic therapy significantly reduced morbidity and mortality, markedly increased litter size and frequency, and resulted in the normalization of many of the immunologic assays. The involvement of C. rodentium in altering viability of the colony and perturbing immunologic assays is suggested by correlation of the onset of the syndrome with the appearance of Citrobacter sp. and its resolution with the elimination of Citrobacter sp. from the colony. Whether infection with Citrobacter alone is causative or whether superinfection of murine hepatitis virus- and Helicobacter-infected mice is required remains to be determined.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Seattle, Washington 2: Department of Immunology, University of Washington, Seattle; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Seattle, Washington 3: School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Seattle, Washington 4: Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Publication date: 01 April 1998

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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