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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Production

HORSE SPECIES SYMPOSIUM: A novel approach to monitoring pathogen progression during uterine and placental infection in the mare using bioluminescence imaging technology and lux-modified bacteria12


This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 89 No. 5, p. 1541-1551
    Received: Oct 24, 2010
    Accepted: Jan 08, 2011
    Published: December 4, 2014

    3 Corresponding author(s):

  1. P. L. Ryan 3,
  2. D. L. Christiansen*,
  3. R. M. Hopper*,
  4. F. K. Walters*,
  5. K. Moulton,
  6. J. Curbelo,
  7. J. M. Greene* and
  8. S. T. Willard†‡
  1. Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine,
    Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, and
    Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State 39762



Uterine and placental infections are the leading cause of abortion, stillbirth, and preterm delivery in the mare. Whereas uterine and placental infections in women have been studied extensively, a comprehensive examination of the pathogenic processes leading to this unsatisfactory pregnancy outcome in the mare has yet to be completed. Most information in the literature relating to late-term pregnancy loss in mares is based on retrospective studies of clinical cases submitted for necropsy. Here we report the development and application of a novel approach, whereby transgenically modified bacteria transformed with lux genes of Xenorhabdus luminescens or Photorhabdus luminescens origin and biophotonic imaging are utilized to better understand pathogen-induced preterm birth in late-term pregnant mares. This technology uses highly sensitive bioluminescence imaging camera systems to localize and monitor pathogen progression during tissue invasion by measuring the bioluminescent signatures emitted by the lux-modified pathogens. This method has an important advantage in that it allows for the potential tracking of pathogens in vivo in real time and over time, which was hitherto impossible. Although the application of this technology in domestic animals is in its infancy, investigators were successful in identifying the fetal lungs, sinuses, nares, urinary, and gastrointestinal systems as primary tissues for pathogen invasion after experimental infection of pregnant mares with lux-modified Escherichia coli. It is important that pathogens were not detected in other vital organs, such as the liver, brain, and cardiac system. Such precision in localizing sites of pathogen invasion provides potential application for this novel approach in the development of more targeted therapeutic interventions for pathogen-related diseases in the equine and other domestic species.

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