Brucellosis, which results in fetal abortions in domestic and wildlife animal populations, is of major concern in the US and throughout much of the world. The disease, caused by Brucella abortus, poses an economic threat to agriculture-based communities. A moderately efficacious live attenuated vaccine (B. abortus strain RB51) exists. However, even with vaccine use, outbreaks occur. Evidence suggests that elk (Cervus canadensis), a wild host reservoir, are the source of recent outbreaks in domestic cattle herds in Wyoming, USA. Brucella abortus establishes a chronic, persistent infection in elk. The molecular mechanisms allowing the establishment of this persistent infective state are currently unknown. A potential mechanism could be that concurrent pathogen burdens contribute to persistence. In Wyoming, elk are chronically infected with Trypanosoma cervi, which may modulate host responses in a similar manner to that documented for other trypanosomes. To identify any synergistic relationship between the two pathogens, we simulated coinfection in the well-established murine brucellosis model using Trypanosoma musculi and B. abortus S19. Groups of C57BL/6 mice (Mus musculus) were infected with either B. abortus strain 19 (S19) or T. musculi or both. Sera were collected weekly; spleens from euthanized mice were tested to determine bacterial load near the end of normal brucellosis infection. Although changes in bacterial load were observed during the later stages of brucellosis in those mice coinfected with T. musculi, the most significant finding was the suppression of gamma interferon early during the infection along with an increase in interleukin-10 secretion compared with mice infected with either pathogen alone. These results suggest that immune modulatory events occur in the mouse during coinfection and that further experiments are warranted to determine if T. cervi impacts Brucella infection in elk.
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Vol. 50 • No. 1