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Mycobacterium ulcerans fails to infect through skin abrasions in a guinea pig infection model: implications for transmission.


ABSTRACT: Transmission of M. ulcerans, the etiological agent of Buruli ulcer, from the environment to humans remains an enigma despite decades of research. Major transmission hypotheses propose 1) that M. ulcerans is acquired through an insect bite or 2) that bacteria enter an existing wound through exposure to a contaminated environment. In studies reported here, a guinea pig infection model was developed to determine whether Buruli ulcer could be produced through passive inoculation of M. ulcerans onto a superficial abrasion. The choice of an abrasion model was based on the fact that most bacterial pathogens infecting the skin are able to infect an open lesion, and that abrasions are extremely common in children. Our studies show that after a 90d infection period, an ulcer was present at intra-dermal injection sites of all seven animals infected, whereas topical application of M. ulcerans failed to establish an infection. Mycobacterium ulcerans was cultured from all injection sites whereas infected abrasion sites healed and were culture negative. A 14d experiment was conducted to determine how long organisms persisted after inoculation. Mycobacterium ulcerans was isolated from abrasions at one hour and 24 hours post infection, but cultures from later time points were negative. Abrasion sites were qPCR positive up to seven days post infection, but negative at later timepoints. In contrast, M. ulcerans DNA was detected at intra-dermal injection sites throughout the study. M. ulcerans was cultured from injection sites at each time point. These results suggest that injection of M. ulcerans into the skin greatly facilitates infection and lends support for the role of an invertebrate vector or other route of entry such as a puncture wound or deep laceration where bacteria would be contained within the lesion. Infection through passive inoculation into an existing abrasion appears a less likely route of entry.

SUBMITTER: Williamson HR 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3983084 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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