Transmission of Mycobacterium ulcerans to the nine-banded armadillo.

D S WalshDepartment of Immunology and Medicine, US Army Medical Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.

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W M MeyersDepartment of Immunology and Medicine, US Army Medical Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.

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R E KriegDepartment of Immunology and Medicine, US Army Medical Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.

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G P WalshDepartment of Immunology and Medicine, US Army Medical Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.

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Animal models for Mycobacterium ulcerans infections (Buruli ulcer) include guinea pigs, rats, and mice, but each has limitations in replicating the spectrum of human disease. Here, 19 adult nine-banded armadillos were inoculated intradermally with M. ulcerans. Injection sites were examined and skin samples obtained for histologic and microbiology studies. Necropsies were conducted to assess systemic involvement. In group 1 (n = 4), 2 animals developed progressive skin ulcers with undermined borders at the injection sites within 6-10 weeks. Biopsies showed features similar to human disease including extensive necrosis in the deep dermis and subcutaneous fat, mixed cellular infiltrates, and acid-fast bacilli (AFB). In group 2 (n = 15), 5 animals developed progressive skin ulcers, 3 had evanescent papulo-nodules, 3 died shortly after inoculation of unknown causes, and 4 showed no signs of infection. Lesion samples from 3 animals with progressive ulcers were culture positive for AFB. Our findings indicate that nine-banded armadillos are susceptible to M. ulcerans and may develop cutaneous lesions that closely mimic Buruli ulcer.

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