Species-specificity of equine and porcine Lawsonia intracellularis isolates in laboratory animals

Francesca Sampieri, Fabio A. Vannucci, Andrew L. Allen, Nicola Pusterla, Aphroditi J. Antonopoulos, Katherine R. Ball, Julie Thompson, Patricia M. Dowling, Don L. Hamilton, Connie J. Gebhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Lawsonia intracellularis infection causes proliferative enteropathy (PE) in many mammalian species, with porcine and equine proliferative enteropathy (PPE and EPE) known worldwide. Hamsters are a well-published animal model for PPE infection studies in pigs. There is no laboratory animal model for EPE infection studies and it is not known whether there is species-specificity for equine or porcine isolates of L. intracellularis in animal models. The objective of this study was to determine whether it is possible to generate typical EPE lesions in hamsters after inoculation with an equine strain of L. intracellularis (EPE strain) and whether it is comparatively possible to generate PPE lesions in rabbits after inoculation with a porcine strain of L. intracellularis (PPE strain). In 2 separate trials, 4-week-old and 3-week-old weanling golden Syrian hamsters were challenged with EPE strains and compared to uninfected (both trials) and PPE-infected controls (Trial 2 only). Concurrently, 6 female New Zealand white juvenile rabbits were infected with PPE strain and observed concomitantly to 8 similar rabbits infected with EPE strain for a different experiment. Hamsters and rabbits were observed for 21 to 24 days post-infection (DPI), depending on the experiment. Neither infected species developed clinical signs. The presence of disease was assessed with diagnostic techniques classically used for pigs and horses: immune-peroxidase monolayer assay on sera; quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) detection of molecular DNA in feces; and hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stain and immunohistochemistry (IHC) on intestinal tissues. Our results showed that EPE-challenged hamsters do not develop infection when compared with PPE controls (IHC, P = 0.009; qPCR, P = 0.0003). Conversely, PPE-challenged rabbits do not develop typical intestinal lesions in comparison to EPE-challenged rabbits, with serological response at 14 DPI being significantly lower (P = 0.0023). In conclusion, PPE and EPE strains appear to have different host-specificities for hamsters and rabbits, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-272
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Veterinary Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013


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