The dysgonic fermenter-2 bacterium is a newly recognized fastidious gram-negative bacillus that causes bacteremia and sometimes endocarditis in immunocompromised persons after they are bitten by dogs. To develop an experimental model of this infection, we placed polyethylene catheters across the aortic valves of New Zealand white rabbits, which were inoculated intravenously the next day with dysgonic fermenter-2 bacteria. After 1 week, the rabbits were killed and the endocardial vegetations were homogenized for quantitative culture. Large inocula (1.3 X 10(10) to 2.1 X 10(10) viable bacteria) were required to produce infected vegetations. All infected rabbits had negative blood cultures at the time of autopsy and most developed serum agglutinins against dysgonic fermenter-2 bacteria. Three daily injections of methylprednisolone (30 mg/kg), starting the day before inoculation, significantly increased the incidence of endocarditis and the number of bacteria per gram of infected vegetation (P less than 0.05). Treatment with methylprednisolone prolonged the initial bacteremia and caused significant increases in the numbers of bacteria per gram of blood, spleen, and liver compared with those of untreated controls (P less than 0.05). Rabbits that had previously undergone splenectomy showed prolongation of the initial bacteremia but no significant increase in the incidence of infected vegetations. These results showed that the dysgonic fermenter-2 bacterium is a pathogen that causes endocarditis in rabbits but that it requires a large inoculum and produces blood culture-negative infections. Treatment with methylprednisolone enhances infection by prolonging the initial bacteremia and probably by diminishing bactericidal activity in the vegetations
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