Coxiella burnetii Intratracheal Aerosol Infection Model in Mice, Guinea Pigs, and Nonhuman Primates.
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Coxiella burnetii, the etiological agent of Q fever, is a Gram-negative bacterium transmitted to humans by inhalation of contaminated aerosols. Acute Q fever is often self-limiting, presenting as a febrile illness that can result in atypical pneumonia. In some cases, Q fever becomes chronic, leading to endocarditis that can be life threatening. The formalin-inactivated whole-cell vaccine (WCV) confers long-term protection but has significant side effects when administered to presensitized individuals. Designing new vaccines against C. burnetii remains a challenge and requires the use of clinically relevant modes of transmission in appropriate animal models. We have developed a safe and reproducible C. burnetii aerosol challenge in three different animal models to evaluate the effects of pulmonary acquired infection. Using a MicroSprayer aerosolizer, BL/6 mice and Hartley guinea pigs were infected intratracheally with C. burnetii Nine Mile phase I (NMI) and demonstrated susceptibility as determined by measuring bacterial growth in the lungs and subsequent dissemination to the spleen. Histological analysis of lung tissue showed significant pathology associated with disease, which was more severe in guinea pigs. Infection using large-particle aerosol (LPA) delivery was further confirmed in nonhuman primates, which developed fever and pneumonia. We also demonstrate that vaccinating mice and guinea pigs with WCV prior to LPA challenge is capable of eliciting protective immunity that significantly reduces splenomegaly and the bacterial burden in spleen and lung tissues. These data suggest that these models can have appreciable value in using the LPA delivery system to study pulmonary Q fever pathogenesis as well as designing vaccine countermeasures to C. burnetii aerosol transmission.