Characteristics of Chlamydia suis ocular infection in pigs

Chlamydia (C.) suis can often be isolated from conjunctival swab specimens from pigs with conjunctivitis or keratoconjunctivitis. In the field, it is assumed to be a multifactorial disease triggered by immunosuppressing factors. This is the first experimental study to provoke clinical signs of conjunctivitis in pigs after C. suis primary mono-infection. Five six-week-old male piglets, free of ocular chlamydia shedding and seronegative for Chlamydia, were conjunctivally infected with the C. suis-type strain S45 (1 × 109 inclusion forming units), while four piglets served as negative controls. The infection group developed clinical signs of conjunctivitis with a peak in the first week post-infection. Immunohistochemical evaluation revealed the presence of Chlamydia not only in the conjunctival epithelium, but also in the enlarged lacrimal glands, lungs, and intestine. No circulating antibodies could be detected during the whole study period of three weeks, although three different test systems were applied as follows: the complement fixation test, MOMP-based Chlamydiaceae ELISA, and PmpC-based C. suis ELISA. Meanwhile, high numbers of IFN-γ-producing lymphocytes within PBMC were seen after C. suis re-stimulation 14 days post-infection. Hence, these data suggest that entry via the eye may not elicit immunological responses comparable to other routes of chlamydial infections.

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