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Ackermann, Kerstin; Kenngott, Rebecca; Settles, Monica; Gerhards, Hartmut; Maierl, Johann and Wollanke, Bettina (9. September 2021): In Vivo Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Leptospira spp. in the Vitreous Humor of Horses with Recurrent Uveitis. In: Microorganisms, Vol. 9, No. 1915 [PDF, 861kB]


Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) causes painful inflammatory attacks and oftentimes blindness in the affected eyes. The disease is considered a late sequela of systemic leptospirosis. The most effective therapy is the surgical removal of the vitreous (vitrectomy), which is not only therapeutic, but provides vitreous material that can be assessed diagnostically. For example, the lipL32 gene, culturable Leptospira spp., and anti-Leptospira antibodies have all been detected in vitreous samples obtained from eyes with chronic ERU. Despite this clear evidence of leptospiral involvement, the systemic administration of antibiotics in infected horses is ineffective at resolving ERU. This syndrome of chronic recurrent inflammation, which is unresponsive to antibiotic therapy, combined with apparent bacteria evading the immune response, is consistent with a biofilm-associated infection. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to detect the in vivo biofilm formation of Leptospira spp. in vitreous samples collected during vitrectomy and examined using a Warthin-Starry silver stain and immunohistochemistry. All known steps of biofilm formation were visualized in these samples, including individual Leptospira spp., leptospiral microcolonies and dense roundish accumulations of Leptospira spp. In many instances spirochetes were surrounded by an extracellular substance. Taken together, data from the present study show that ERU is a biofilm-associated intraocular leptospiral infection, which best explains the typical clinical course.

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