We evaluated the role of pili in the pathogenesis of disease due to Haemophilus influenzae type b (HiTb), using the infant rat model. Piliated and nonpiliated HiTb strains were isolated from the nasopharynx and cerebrospinal fluid, respectively, of 3 children. Infant rats inoculated intranasally with nonadherent HiTb developed bacteremia and meningitis more frequently (P = 0.005) than animals inoculated with companion adherent HiTb strains. When analyzed separately, only one HiTb pair (884/880) demonstrated significant differences in the incidence of bacteremia and meningitis between the adherent and nonadherent strains. Blood or cerebrospinal isolates recovered from infant rats inoculated with piliated adherent HiTb strains were not piliated and were not adherent in vitro. Adherent and nonadherent HiTb colonized the nasopharynx of infant rats equally. The piliated strains of HiTb were not adherent in vivo or in vitro to rat nasal or buccal epithelial cells, respectively. Piliated strains of HiTb have no apparent advantage over nonpiliated HiTb strains for colonization or invasion of infant rats. Furthermore, the loss of piliation is noted for cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and nasal isolates of HiTb cultured from infant rats inoculated with an adherent piliated HiTb strain. Thus, the loss or suppression of pili may be an important prerequisite for the invasion of the host by HiTb strains that are highly piliated.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases