The Natural History of Pneumonic Tularemia in Female Fischer 344 Rats after Inhalational Exposure to Aerosolized Francisella tularensis Subspecies tularensis Strain SCHU S4.
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The inbred Fischer 344 rat is being evaluated for testing novel vaccines and therapeutics against pneumonic tularemia. Although primary pneumonic tularemia in humans typically occurs by inhalation of aerosolized bacteria, the rat model has relied on intratracheal inoculation of organisms because of safety and equipment issues. We now report the natural history of pneumonic tularemia in female Fischer 344 rats after nose-only inhalational exposure to lethal doses of aerosolized Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis, strain SCHU S4. Our results are consistent with initial uptake of aerosolized SCHU S4 from the nasal cavity, lungs, and possibly the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteremia with hematogenous dissemination was first detected 2 days after exposure. Shortly thereafter, the infected rats exhibited fever, tachypnea, and hypertension that persisted for 24 to 36 hours and then rapidly decreased as animals succumbed to infection between days 5 and 8 after exposure. Tachycardia was observed briefly, but only after the core body temperature and blood pressure began to decrease as the animals were near death. Initial neutrophilic and histiocytic inflammation in affected tissues became progressively more fibrinous and necrotizing over time. At death, as many as 10(10) colony-forming units were found in the lungs, spleen, and liver. Death was attributed to sepsis and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Overall, the pathogenesis of pneumonic tularemia in the female F344 rat model appears to replicate the disease in humans.Copyright © 2017 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.