Superficial exudates of neutrophils prevent invasion of Bacillus anthracis bacilli into abraded skin of resistant mice

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Skin window procedures in humans have shown rapid accumulation of neutrophils into the exuded fluids above abraded skin. The present study was undertaken to determine if similar epicutaneous neutrophil accumulation might explain the extreme resistance of HRS/J mice, both hairless (hr/hr) and haired (hr/+), to experimental cutaneous Bacillus anthracis Sterne infections on abraded skin. In this study, very early (6 h) biopsies demonstrated a lack of bacilli in skin from the HRS/J hr/hr mice, indicating that the organisms never did invade in these animals as opposed to early skin entry and then efficient clearance by host responses in the tissues. Touch preparations of either the inoculation filter or the skin surface revealed more inflammatory cells, fewer bacilli, and a higher percentage of cell-associated bacilli in the HRS/J hr/hr mice than in comparator strains. In the HRS/J mice, cyclophosphamide treatment or separation of inoculated spores from the inflammatory infiltrates by a second filter below both produced marked increases in the number of bacilli observed. Examination of inoculation filter specimens demonstrated ingestion of spores and bacilli by neutrophils inside the filter at 6 h after inoculation. These findings suggest that an early and vigorous inflammatory cell infiltrate in HRS/J mice attacks the inoculated organisms above the skin surface and does not allow them to invade the tissues below.

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