Non-pathogenic Lawsonia intracellularis variants have been obtained through multiple passages in cell culture but there is no information regarding the number of passages necessary to attenuate a pathogenic isolate. The present study evaluated the susceptibility of pigs to L. intracellularis after 10, 20 and 40 passages in vitro. Three groups (six animals/group) were inoculated with pure culture of L. intracellularis on passage 10, 20 or 40 and one group with placebo. The animals were monitored for clinical signs, fecal shedding and serological IgG response during 28 days post-inoculation. Gross and histologic lesions and the level of infection based on the amount of L. intracellularis-specific antigen in the intestinal mucosa identified by immunohistochemistry were evaluated in two animals from each group on days 14, 21 and 28. Animals inoculated with passages 10 and 20 demonstrated proliferative lesions typical of porcine proliferative enteropathy associated with the presence of Lawsonia-specific antigen in the intestinal mucosa. Passage 40-inoculated pigs did not show proliferative lesions or presence of Lawsonia antigen at any time point throughout the study. Similar patterns of the fecal shedding were observed in passage 10 and 20-infected pigs but those infected with passage 40 shed for a short period. Serological IgG responses in passage 10 and 20-inoculated pigs were detected from day 14 post-infection but not at all in passage 40-inoculated animals. These results demonstrate attenuation of the virulence properties of L. intracellularis between 20 and 40 cell passages in vitro. This information will be valuable for design of future experimental models and for studying the mechanisms involved in the attenuation of L. intracellularis virulence.
- Experimental infection
- Lawsonia intracellularis
- Porcine proliferative enteropathy
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