The low pH of the stomach serves as a barrier to ingested microbes and must be overcome or bypassed when delivering live bacteria for vaccine or probiotic applications. Typically, the impact of stomach acidity on bacterial survival is evaluated in vitro, as there are no small animal models to evaluate these effects in vivo. To better understand the effect of this low pH barrier to live attenuated Salmonella vaccines, which are often very sensitive to low pH, we investigated the value of the histamine mouse model for this application. A low pH gastric compartment was transiently induced in mice by the injection of histamine. This resulted in a gastric compartment of approximately pH 1.5 that was capable of distinguishing between acid-sensitive and acid-resistant microbes. Survival of enteric microbes during gastric transit in this model directly correlated with their in vitro acid resistance. Because many Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi vaccine strains are sensitive to acid, we have been investigating systems to enhance the acid resistance of these bacteria. Using the histamine mouse model, we demonstrate that the in vivo survival of S. Typhi vaccine strains increased approximately 10-fold when they carried a sugar-inducible arginine decarboxylase system. We conclude that this model will be a useful for evaluating live bacterial preparations prior to clinical trials.
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