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Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis, is a gram-negative bacterium capable of causing either acute lethal sepsis or chronic but eventually fatal disease in infected individuals. However, despite the clinical importance of this infection in areas where it is endemic, there is essentially no information on the mechanisms of protective immunity to the bacterium. We describe here a murine model of either acute or chronic infection with B. pseudomallei in Taylor Outbred (TO) mice which mimics many features of the human pathology. Intraperitoneal infection of TO mice at doses of >10(6) CFU resulted in acute septic shock and death within 2 days. In contrast, at lower doses mice were able to clear the inoculum from the liver and spleen over a 3- to 4-week period, but persistence of the organism at other sites resulted in a chronic infection of between 2 and 16 months duration which was eventually lethal in all of the animals tested. Resistance to acute infection with B. pseudomallei was absolutely dependent upon the production of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in vivo. Administration of neutralizing monoclonal antibody against IFN-gamma lowered the 50% lethal dose from >5 x 10(5) to ca. 2 CFU and was associated with 8,500- and 4,400-fold increases in the bacterial burdens in the liver and spleen, respectively, together with extensive destruction of lymphoid architecture in the latter organ within 48 h. Neutralization of either tumor necrosis factor alpha or interleukin-12 but not granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, also increased susceptibility to infection in vivo. Together, these results provide the first evidence of a host protective mechanism against B. pseudomallei. The rapid production of IFN-gamma within the first day of infection determines whether the infection proceeds to an acute lethal outcome or becomes chronic.


Journal article


Infection and immunity

Publication Date





3593 - 3600


Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, United Kingdom.


Animals, Humans, Mice, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Melioidosis, Acute Disease, Chronic Disease, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Interleukin-12, Immunity, Innate, Interferon-gamma