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The roles of flagella and five fimbriae (SEF14, SEF17, SEF21, pef, lpf) in the early stages (up to 3 days) of Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis (S. Enteritidis) infection have been investigated in the rat. Wild-type strains LA5 and S1400 (fim /fla ) and insertionally inactivated mutants unable to express the five fimbriae (fim-/fla ), flagella (fim /fla-) or fimbriae and flagella (fim-/fla-) were used. All wild-type and mutant strains were able to colonize the gut and spread to the mesenteric lymph nodes, liver and spleen. There appeared to be little or no difference between the fim-/fla and wild-type (fim /fla ) strains. In contrast, the numbers of aflagellate (fim /fla- or fim-/fla-) salmonella in the liver and spleen were transiently reduced. In addition, fim /fla- or fim-/fla- strains were less able to persist in the upper gastrointestinal tract and the inflammatory responses they elicited in the gut were less severe. Thus, expression of SEF14, SEF17, SEF21, pef and lpf did not appear to be a prerequisite for induction of S. Enteritidis infection in the rat. Deletion of flagella did, however, disadvantage the bacterium. This may be due to the inability to produce or release the potent immunomodulating protein flagellin.

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