Pneumocystis carinii infection in young non-immunosuppressed rabbits. Kinetics of infection and of the primary specific immune response

Enrica Tamburrini, Elena Ortona, Elena Visconti, Paola Mencarini, Paola Margutti, Maria Zolfo, Stefano Barca, Sarah E. Peters, Ann E. Wakefield, Alessandra Siracusano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to determine the kinetics, the dissemination of the infection and the immunological response to Pneumocystis carinii primary infection in a non-immunosuppressed rabbit model. For this purpose, we developed a nested PCR that amplified a portion of the mitochondrial large-subunit rRNA gene of rabbit-derived P. carinii. The PCR detected P. carinii DNA in lung and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids from 14- to 45-day-old rabbits but not in their serum. No P. carinii DNA was detected in extrapulmonary organs from 28-day-old rabbits with P. carinii pneumonia. ELISA and immunoblotting analysis showed that 5-day-old pups had elevated specific IgG. The IgG concentration sharply decreased, reaching a trough on day 21, and from then onwards progressively increased as the infection cleared. Conversely, the specific IgM concentration increased during the infection and peaked on day 28. IgG mainly recognized a 50-kDa subunit of P. carinii organisms; IgM recognized first a 45-kDa subunit on day 21, whereas from day 28 onwards it also recognized the 50-kDa subunit. A P. carinii-specific splenocyte proliferative response was observed on day 45. These findings suggest that P. carinii primary infection is a time-limited and a lung-limited event and contribute new information on the relationship between the kinetics of primary P. carinii infection and the immunological response in a model that mimics the primary infections in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Microbiology and Immunology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Immune response
  • Pneumocystis carinii
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Rabbits
  • Spontaneous infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology (medical)


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