Improved rat model of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia: induced laboratory infections in Pneumocystis-free animals.


An immunosuppressed rat model of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is described that utilizes simple, noninvasive intratracheal (i.t.) inoculation of cryopreserved parasites and results in development of severe P. carinii pneumonia within 5 weeks. This is an improvement over the most commonly used models of P. carinii pneumonia that rely on immune suppression to activate latent P. carinii infections and that often require 8 to 12 weeks to produce heavy infections of P. carinii. It is also less labor intensive than more recent models requiring surgical instillation of parasites. Our report describes a series of preliminary studies to select an appropriate strain of rat; to determine suitable methods for inducing uniform immunosuppression, P. carinii inoculation, and laboratory maintenance of P. carinii; and to determine effective animal husbandry methods for maintaining animals free from serious secondary infections. Results of our more detailed studies demonstrate that animals receiving two or three i.t. inoculations of approximately 10(6) cryopreserved P. carinii organisms have a predictable course of disease progression which includes moderate P. carinii infections within 3 weeks, severe P. carinii pneumonia in 5 weeks, and a high percentage of mortality due to P. carinii pneumonia in 6 weeks. Parasites were distributed evenly between the right and left lungs, regardless of the number of P. carinii inoculations administered. Non-P. carinii-inoculated immunosuppressed control rats maintained in microisolator cages remained free of P. carinii, thus providing an important control that is missing from many P. carinii pneumonia models. Most non-P. carinii-inoculated control animals and P. carinii-inoculated rats treated with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole that were housed in open caging in the same room containing heavily infected animals had no detectable infections after 5 to 6 weeks of immunosuppression; however, some had a small number of P. carinii in their lungs. Because heavy, reproducible infections are achieved 5 weeks after i.t. inoculation, because few animals are lost to secondary infections, and because animals can be maintained as noninfected contemporaneous controls, this animal model is useful for the maintenance of P. carinii strains, for studies of the transmission and natural history of P. carinii, for the production of large numbers of organisms for laboratory studies, and for the evaluation of potential anti-P. carinii drugs.

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