Complement resistance in Actinobacillus (Haemophilus) pleuropneumoniae infection of swine

A. N. Rycroft From the Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Glasgow Veterinary School, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 1QH, Scotland.

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J. M. Cullen From the Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Glasgow Veterinary School, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 1QH, Scotland.

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SUMMARY

The possible role of the complement-mediated bactericidal system in protection of swine against contagious pleuropneumonia was investigated. Strains of Actinobacillus (Haemophilus) pleuropneumoniae representing serotypes 2, 3 and 5 were found to be fully resistant to the bactericidal action of porcine serum from precolostral, clinically normal adult, and chronically infected pigs. All strains were also resistant to hyperimmune rabbit serum, but 3 of 4 strains were sensitive to normal human serum. This bactericidal effect was lost when human serum was previously absorbed with the homologous bacteria, indicating that antibody was necessary for killing. Addition of human serum to porcine serum or to absorbed human serum did not restore the bactericidal system. Pretreatment of the bacteria with undiluted heat-treated human serum also failed to sensitize the bacteria to the absorbed serum, indicating that a heat-labile, absorbable factor may have been required for killing of A pleuropneumoniae. None of the strains was sensitized to porcine serum by sublethal treatment with polymyxin B, a treatment that is known to disrupt the integrity of the outer membrane and induce serum sensitivity in gram-negative bacteria. The ability of A pleuropneumoniae to resist complement killing in vitro may reflect a virulence mechanism in vivo that assists bacteria in avoiding the pulmonary defenses of swine and promotes bacterial invasion of the lungs.

SUMMARY

The possible role of the complement-mediated bactericidal system in protection of swine against contagious pleuropneumonia was investigated. Strains of Actinobacillus (Haemophilus) pleuropneumoniae representing serotypes 2, 3 and 5 were found to be fully resistant to the bactericidal action of porcine serum from precolostral, clinically normal adult, and chronically infected pigs. All strains were also resistant to hyperimmune rabbit serum, but 3 of 4 strains were sensitive to normal human serum. This bactericidal effect was lost when human serum was previously absorbed with the homologous bacteria, indicating that antibody was necessary for killing. Addition of human serum to porcine serum or to absorbed human serum did not restore the bactericidal system. Pretreatment of the bacteria with undiluted heat-treated human serum also failed to sensitize the bacteria to the absorbed serum, indicating that a heat-labile, absorbable factor may have been required for killing of A pleuropneumoniae. None of the strains was sensitized to porcine serum by sublethal treatment with polymyxin B, a treatment that is known to disrupt the integrity of the outer membrane and induce serum sensitivity in gram-negative bacteria. The ability of A pleuropneumoniae to resist complement killing in vitro may reflect a virulence mechanism in vivo that assists bacteria in avoiding the pulmonary defenses of swine and promotes bacterial invasion of the lungs.

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