Diarrheal disease caused by enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis in infant rabbits

L. L. Myers, D. S. Shoop, J. E. Collins, W. C. Bradbury

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Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis caused severe, nonhemorrhagic, watery diarrhea when 109 CFU of a porcine or human isolate was administered orogastrically to 3-day-old rabbits. The bacterium colonized the intestinal tract with a predilection for the large intestine (109 CFU/g of cecal contents). Diarrhea occurred at an average of 4.6 days postinoculation, and 84% of rabbits were dead or moribund at an average of 8.8 days postinoculation. The disease was characterized by watery diarrhea and dehydration. Severe histologic lesions including inflammation, exfoliation of epithelial cells, and crypt hyperplasia were observed throughout the colon. There was no indication of bacteremia or of bacterial adherence to or invasion of intestinal epithelial cells. Rabbit inoculated with nonenterotoxigenic B. fragilis were colonized with B. fragilis but did not develop clinical disease or intestinal lesions. While the pathogenesis of this disease is undefined, clinical signs of disease and histologic changes were consistent with a mechanism of net secretion of fluid into the small intestine and decreased absorption of fluid from the large intestine. Enteric disease caused by enterotoxigenic B. fragilis in infant rabbits was similar to naturally occurring enteric disease associated with the bacterium in humans and livestock. This study established that enterotoxigenic B. fragilis is enteropathogenic in intact infant rabbits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2025-2030
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1989


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