Helicobacter mustelae has been isolated from stomachs of ferrets with chronic gastritis and ulcers. When H. mustelae is inoculated orally into H. mustelae-negative ferrets, the animals become colonized and develop gastritis, a significant immune response, and a transient hypochlorhydria. All of these features mimic Helicobacter pylori-induced gastric disease in humans. Because the epidemiology of H. pylori infection is poorly understood and its route of transmission is unknown, the feces of weanling and adult ferrets were cultured for the presence of H. mustelae. H. mustelae was isolated from the feces of 11 of 36 ferrets by using standard helicobacter isolation techniques. H. mustelae was identified by biochemical tests, ultrastructural morphology, reactivity with specific DNA probes, and 16S rRNA sequencing. H. mustelae was not recovered from 20-week-old ferrets which had been H. mustelae positive as weanlings, nor was H. mustelae recovered from 1-year-old ferrets. Isolation of H. mustelae from feces may correspond to periods of transient hypochlorhydria, or H. mustelae may be shed in feces intermittently. The H. mustelae-colonized ferret provides an ideal model for studying the pathogenesis and transmission of H. pylori-induced gastric disease
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