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EXPERIMENTAL INFECTION OF HUMAN BODY LICE WITH ACINETOBACTER BAUMANNII

LINDA HOUHAMDIUnité des Rickettsies, Institut Fédératif de Recherche 48, Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Unité Mixte de Recherche 6020, Faculté de Médecine, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France

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DIDIER RAOULTUnité des Rickettsies, Institut Fédératif de Recherche 48, Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Unité Mixte de Recherche 6020, Faculté de Médecine, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France

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The human body louse is currently recognized as a vector of Rickettsia prowazekii, Borrelia recurrentis, and Bartonella quintana. Previous studies have reported the isolation of Acinetobacter baumannii from the body lice of homeless patients. To study how the body louse acquires A. baumannii, we infected a rabbit by infusing 2 × 106 colony-forming units of the louse strain of A. baumannii. Two hundred body lice were infected by feeding on the bacteremic rabbit and compared with 200 uninfected lice and two groups of 200 lice feeding on rabbits infected either with another strain of A. baumannii or A. lwoffii. Each louse group received maintenance feedings once a day on another seronegative rabbit. Body lice that fed on rabbits infused with each Acinetobacter species demonstrated a generalized infection. The body lice did not transmit their infection to the nurse rabbit by bite while feeding or to their progeny (eggs and larvae). The lice excreted living Acinetobacter species within their feces. Only the louse strain of A. baumannii was pathogenic for the body louse. An increased mortality rate was observed between the second and third days post-infection; however, they remained infected for their lifespan.

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