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Open Access Pneumocystis carinii Infection Causes Lung Lesions Historically Attributed to Rat Respiratory Virus

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Idiopathic lung lesions characterized by dense perivascular cuffs of lymphocytes and a lymphohistiocytic interstitial pneumonia have been noted in research rats since the 1990s. Although the etiology of this disease has remained elusive, a putative viral etiology was suspected and the term 'rat respiratory virus' (RRV) has been used in reference to this disease agent. The purpose of this study was to determine whether Pneumocystis carinii infection in immunocompetent rats can cause idiopathic lung lesions previously attributed to RRV. In archived paraffin-embedded lungs (n = 43), a significant association was seen between idiopathic lung lesions and Pneumocystis DNA detected by PCR. In experimental studies, lung lesions of RRV developed in 9 of 10 CD rats 5 wk after intratracheal inoculation with P. carinii. No lung lesions developed in CD rats (n = 10) dosed with a 0.22-m filtrate of the P. carinii inoculum, thus ruling out viral etiologies, or in sham-inoculated rats (n = 6). Moreover, 13 of 16 CD rats cohoused with immunosuppressed rats inoculated with P. carinii developed characteristic lung lesions from 3 to 7 wk after cohousing, whereas no lesions developed in rats cohoused with immunosuppressed sham-inoculated rats (n = 7). Both experimental infection studies revealed a statistically significant association between lung lesion development and exposure to P. carinii. These data strongly support the conclusion that P. carinii infection in rats causes lung lesions that previously have been attributed to RRV.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Research Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, Columbia, Missouri;, Email: 2: Research Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, Columbia, Missouri

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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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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