Eshwar, A.K., Tall, B.D., Gangiredla, J., Gopinath, G.R., Patel, I.R., Neuhauss, S.C., Stephan, R., Lehner, A. (2016) Linking Genomo- and Pathotype: Exploiting the Zebrafish Embryo Model to Investigate the Divergent Virulence Potential among Cronobacter spp. PLoS One. 11(6):e0158428.
Bacteria belonging to the genus Cronobacter have been recognized as causative agents of life-threatening systemic infections primarily in premature, low-birth weight and immune-compromised neonates. Apparently not all Cronobacter species are linked to infantile infections and it has been proposed that virulence varies among strains. Whole genome comparisons and in silico analysis have proven to be powerful tools in elucidating potential virulence determinants, the presence/absence of which may explain the differential virulence behaviour of strains. However, validation of these factors has in the past been hampered by the availability of a suitable neonatal animal model. In the present study we have used zebrafish embryos to model Cronobacter infections in vivo using wild type and genetically engineered strains. Our experiments confirmed the role of the RepF1B-like plasmids as "virulence plasmids" in Cronobacter and underpinned the importantce of two putative virulence factors-cpa and zpx-in in vivo pathogenesis. We propose that by using this model in vivo infection studies are now possible on a large scale level which will boost the understanding on the virulence strategies employed by these pathogens.