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Open Access Mycoplasma pulmonis Genital Disease: Effect of Rat Strain on Pregnancy Outcome

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Background and Purpose: Mycoplasma pulmonis is a natural pathogen of the respiratory and genital tracts of rats. Differential susceptibility and severity of the respiratory form of the disease, known as murine respiratory mycoplasmosis (MRM), exist between rat strains. We now report that specific rat strains vary in susceptibility to genital tract infection and pregnancy outcome.

Methods: Specific-pathogen-free (SPF) female F344, LEW, Wistar (WIS) and Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were intravaginally inoculated with 3 x 107 colony-forming units (CFU) of M. pulmonis strain X1048 or sterile diluent, and allowed to breed at 10 days after inoculation. Pregnant dams and pups were necropsied within 24 hours of parturition. At necropsy, culture for M. pulmonis was performed on dam and pups, and adverse effects on pregnancy outcome were assessed by determination of the incidence of infertility, fetal resorption, stillbirths, changes in litter size, and pup birth weight. Blood from dams was collected prior to inoculation and at time of necropsy for measurement of IgM and IgG antibodies to M. pulmonis.

Results: At time of necropsy, WIS (50%) and SD (60%) dams had a higher frequency of M. pulmonis culture positivity in the genital tract than did LEW (22.2%) and F344 (17.6%) dams. Dams that were still infected with M. pulmonis at time of necropsy had various complications. The SD rats had the greatest degree of adverse effects on pregnancy outcome, which were: infertility, decreased litter size (P ≤ 0.01), decreased pup birth weight (P ≤ 0.01), increased frequency of resorptions, stillbirths (P ≤ 0.05), and the highest rate of pup pulmonary infection (23.1%) (P ≤ 0.001). Despite a 50% colonization rate, WIS dams were the least adversely affected. The WIS pups born from M. pulmonis infected dams had slight decrease in birth weight, and only 6% had pulmonary infections. The LEW infected dams developed infertility and lower numbers of liveborn pups without evidence of vertical transmission. The F344 infected dams had lower numbers of liveborn pups that were smaller than their control counterparts, and none had pulmonary infections. None of the animals had detectable IgM and IgG antibodies to M. pulmonis before inoculation. At time of necropsy, all animals inoculated with M. pulmonis developed significantly (P ≤ 0.001) higher amounts of M. pulmonis IgG and IgM antibodies, with SD rats developing the highest amounts (P ≤ 0.005).

Conclusions: Both F344 and LEW rats are more resistant to vaginal inoculation with M. pulmonis than are WIS and SD rats. However, only SD dams suffered severe adverse effects on pregnancy outcome. The SD dams also had the greatest IgM and IgG antibody response to M. pulmonis. Our studies clearly indicate differences among rat strains in their susceptibility to vaginal inoculation with M. pulmonis and in secondary complications associated with infection. This system may be a useful model for determining host-specific factors that influence the outcome of natural mycoplasmal infections of the genital tract.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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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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