Kinetics of Disease Progression and Host Response in a Rat Model of Bubonic Plague

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

American Journal of Pathology






American Society for Investigative Pathology

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Plague, caused by the gram-negative bacterium Yersinia pestis, primarily affects rodents but is also an important zoonotic disease of humans. Bubonic plague in humans follows transmission by infected fleas and is characterized by an acute, necrotizing lymphadenitis in the regional lymph nodes that drain the intradermal flea bite site. Septicemia rapidly follows with spread to spleen, liver, and other organs. We developed a model of bubonic plague using the inbred Brown Norway strain of Rattus norvegicus to characterize the progression and kinetics of infection and the host immune response after intradermal inoculation of Y. pestis. The clinical signs and pathology in the rat closely resembled descriptions of human bubonic plague. The bacteriology; histopathology; host cellular response in infected lymph nodes, blood, and spleen; and serum cytokine levels were analyzed at various times after infection to determine the kinetics and route of disease progression and to evaluate hypothesized Y. pestis pathogenic mechanisms. Understanding disease progression in this rat infection model should facilitate further investigations into the molecular pathogenesis of bubonic plague and the immune response to Y. pestis at different stages of the disease.