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Enhanced Virulence of Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium after Passage through Mice

Mastroeni, Pietro, Morgan, Fiona J.E., McKinley, Trevelyan J., Shawcroft, Ewan, Clare, Simon, Maskell, Duncan J., Grant, Andrew J.
Infection and immunity 2011 v.79 no.2 pp. 636-643
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Typhimurium, bacteria, fluorescence microscopy, genes, immune system, mice, mutants, phenotype, virulence
The interaction between Salmonella enterica and the host immune system is complex. The outcome of an infection is the result of a balance between the in vivo environment where the bacteria survive and grow and the regulation of fitness genes at a level sufficient for the bacteria to retain their characteristic rate of growth in a given host. Using bacteriological counts from tissue homogenates and fluorescence microscopy to determine the spread, localization, and distribution of S. enterica in the tissues, we show that, during a systemic infection, S. enterica adapts to the in vivo environment. The adaptation becomes a measurable phenotype when bacteria that have resided in a donor animal are introduced into a recipient naïve animal. This adaptation does not confer increased resistance to early host killing mechanisms but can be detected as an enhancement in the bacterial net growth rate later in the infection. The enhanced growth rate is lost upon a single passage in vitro, and it is therefore transient and not due to selection of mutants. The adapted bacteria on average reach higher intracellular numbers in individual infected cells and therefore have patterns of organ spread different from those of nonadapted bacteria. These experiments help in developing an understanding of the influence of passage in a host on the fitness and virulence of S. enterica.