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  • 1 Department of Microbiology and Hygiene, Charité — University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 2 Department of Pathology/Research Center ImmunoSciences (RCIS), Charité — University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 3 Department of Microbiology and Hygiene, University Medicine Berlin, CC5, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Hindenburgdamm 27, D-12203, Berlin, Germany
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Abstract

Campylobacter (C.) jejuni is among the leading bacterial agents causing enterocolitis worldwide. Despite the high prevalence of C. jejuni infections and its significant medical and economical consequences, intestinal pathogenesis is poorly understood. This is mainly due to the lack of appropriate animal models. In the age of 3 months, adult mice display strong colonization resistance (CR) against C. jejuni. Previous studies underlined the substantial role of the murine intestinal microbiota in maintaining CR. Due to the fact that the host-specific gut flora establishes after weaning, we investigated CR against C. jejuni in 3-week-old mice and studied intestinal and extra-intestinal immunopathogenesis as well as age dependent differences of the murine colon microbiota. In infant animals infected orally immediately after weaning C. jejuni strain B2 could stably colonize the gastrointestinal tract for more than 100 days. Within six days following infection, infant mice developed acute enterocolitis as indicated by bloody diarrhea, colonic shortening, and increased apoptotic cell numbers in the colon mucosa. Similar to human campylobacteriosis clinical disease manifestations were self-limited and disappeared within two weeks. Interestingly, long-term C. jejuni infection was accompanied by distinct intestinal immune and inflammatory responses as indicated by increased numbers of T- and B-lymphocytes, regulatory T-cells, neutrophils, as well as apoptotic cells in the colon mucosa. Strikingly, C. jejuni infection also induced a pronounced influx of immune cells into extra-intestinal sites such as liver, lung, and kidney. Furthermore, C. jejuni susceptible weaned mice harbored a different microbiota as compared to resistant adult animals. These results support the essential role of the microflora composition in CR against C. jejuni and demonstrate that infant mouse models resemble C. jejuni mediated immunopathogenesis including the characteristic self-limited enterocolitis in human campylobacteriosis. Furthermore, potential clinical and immunological sequelae of chronic C. jejuni carriers in humans can be further elucidated by investigation of long-term infected infant mice. The observed extraintestinal disease manifestations might help to unravel the mechanisms causing complications such as reactive arthritis or Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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