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Keywords:

  • anthrax;
  • Bacillus anthracis;
  • hair follicles;
  • hairless mice;
  • neutrophils

Summary

Previous studies of experimental Bacillus anthracis cutaneous infections in mice have implicated hair follicles as a likely entry site. Hairless HRS/J mice were used to investigate this possibility because of their non-functional hair follicles that lack penetrating hair shafts. These mice also have diminished macrophage function, increased susceptibility to Listeria, and enhanced neutrophil responses. HRS/J and Balb/c mice were found to be resistant to epicutaneous inoculation with Bacillus anthracis (Sterne) spores onto abraded skin when compared with DBA/2 mice or leucopenic C57BL/6 mice. The HRS/J mice also resisted spore injections that bypassed hair follicles. Haired HRS/J heterozygote mice demonstrated similar reduced susceptibility to B. anthracis spores. Hairless HRS/J mice that were made leucopenic did become susceptible to the epicutaneous spore inoculations. Histologically, the hairless and haired HRS/J mice showed markedly reduced numbers of organisms in hair follicles and the interfollicular dermis when compared even with the resistant Balb/c mice; inflammatory cell infiltrates in the superficial dermis were increased in the HRS/J mice compared with more sensitive strains. Therefore, resistance in the HRS/J mice was apparent at the initial site of epicutaneous inoculation and seemed related to an accumulation of dermal neutrophils rather than to a lack of functional hair follicles.