Yersinia pestis Survival and Replication in Potential Ameba Reservoir

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In conclusion, the mechanisms underlying plague re-emergence following dormancy have eluded researchers for centuries (1,11). Plague persistence within soilborne microorganisms has been hypothesized as an elusive maintenance mechanism (6,11,12,25). We demonstrated spatiotemporal co-occurrence of plague bacterium and various ameba species during an active plague epizootic. Further, we observed the persistence of viable and replicative Y. pestis in D. discoideum amebae for ˃48 hours postinfection and persistence of Y. pestis in 4 cyst-forming ameba species for <24 hours postinfection, whereas ameba-susceptible control bacteria were eliminated by amebae in <1 hour. Thus, Y. pestis are respectively ameba-resistant and transiently ameba-resistant under the tested infection conditions. Y. pestis bacteria resided within ameba structures that were visually analogous to YCVs observed in infected macrophages. These results encourage research into the eco-evolutionary interactions between pathogenic bacteria, amebae, and host immune factors. The reservoir potential of amebae and their shared infection-permissiveness with phagocytic macrophages show promise in explaining the cryptic properties underlying interepizootic plague transmission and persistence.


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