Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version

September 1999


Published in J Vet Diagn Invest 11:252–258 (1999).


Filamentous, gram-negative bacteria morphologically similar to cilia-associated respiratory (CAR) bacillus of rodents and rabbits were isolated from the tracheas of 5 pigs and 4 calves. All pigs but none of the calves had histologic lesions of chronic tracheitis. In silver-stained histologic sections, CAR bacilli were adhered to the tracheal epithelium of each pig but were not found in the calves. Like CAR bacillus of rats, the bacteria displayed gliding motility and grew only in cell culture or cell culture medium supplemented with fetal serum. Initially, all isolates were contaminated by Mycoplasma spp. This contamination was eliminated from 4 pig isolates by limiting dilutions, and mycoplasma-free isolates were used to intranasally inoculate gnotobiotic pigs and CAR bacillus-free mice and rats and to immunize guinea pigs. The gnotobiotic pigs remained healthy, and when they were necropsied 4 and 7 weeks after infection no macroscopic or microscopic lesions were found in the respiratory tract. However, CAR bacillus was isolated at both times from the nasal cavities and tracheas of inoculated pigs, and the ciliated tracheal epithelium of infected pigs necropsied 7 weeks after infection was colonized by low numbers of CAR bacillus-like bacteria. The rats and mice remained healthy through week 12 postinoculation, and evidence of short- or long-term colonization was not detected by histologic examination or culture. When used as primary antibody for immunohistochemical staining, sera from guinea pigs immunized with pig CAR bacillus specifically stained CAR bacilli colonizing the respiratory epithelium of naturally infected pigs, whereas sera collected prior to immunization failed to react with the bacteria. These results indicate that CAR bacilli are unlikely to be primary pathogens of pigs or cattle and that rodents do not act as reservoirs.