Shedding of Brucella melitensis happens through milk macrophages in the murine model of infection

Wiebke Jansen, Aurore Demars, Charles Nicaise, Jacques Godfroid, Xavier De Bolle, Angeline Reboul, Sascha Al Dahouk

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Although shedding of zoonotic brucellae in milk has been demonstrated in natural hosts, these data are still missing for the standard murine infection model. We therefore analysed shedding kinetics and the niche of B. melitensis in murine milk. Pregnant Balb/cByJ mice were intraperitoneally infected with 105 CFU of the 16 M reference strain, a 16 M mCherry mutant or a human isolate. Milk was collected over the course of lactation, and subjected to culture and immunofluorescence assays. Bacteria were also quantified in spleen and mammary glands of maternal mice and in spleen of the litter. The shedding of the three strains did not differ significantly (p = 0.301), ranging from log10 1.5 to 4.04 CFU/ml. A total of 73% of the mice excreted B. melitensis into the milk with peak values at mid-lactation; up to 30 bacteria/cell were found in macrophages and neutrophils. While the bacterial counts in the spleen of lactating females confirmed a well-established infection, only 50% of the pups harboured brucellae in their spleen, including the spleen of an uninfected pup fed by an infected foster mother. In conclusion, the murine model of infection may contribute to a better understanding of the zoonotic transmission of brucellosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9421
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020


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