Background: Bacterial peritonitis is a life-threatening abdominal infection associated with high morbidity and mortality. The rat is a popular animal model for studying peritonitis and its treatment, but longitudinal monitoring of the progression of peritonitis in live animals has been impossible until now and thus required a large number of animals. Our objective was to develop a noninvasive in vivo imaging technique to monitor the spatiotemporal spread of bacterial peritonitis. Methods: Peritonitis was induced in 8 immunocompetent male Wistar rats by placing fibrin clots containing 5 × 108cells of both Bacteroides fragilis (American Type Tissue Culture [ATCC)] 25285 and bioluminescent Escherichia coli Xen14. After 1 or 2 days, infected clots were removed and open abdomen lavage was performed. In vivo bioluminescent imaging was used to monitor the spread of peritonitis. Results: Bioluminescent in vivo imaging showed an increase in the area of spread, and the number of E. coli tripled into the rat's abdominal cavity on day 1 after clot insertion; however, on day 2, encapsulation of the clot confined bacterial spread. Bioluminescent E. coli respread over the peritoneal cavity after lavage; within 10 days, however, in vivo imaging showed a decrease of 3-4 orders of magnitude in bacterial load. Conclusion: Bioluminescent in vivo imaging can be effectively used to monitor the spatiotemporal behavior of the peritonitis during 3 different stages of the disease process: initiation, treatment, and follow-up. Imaging allows researchers to repeatedly image the same animal, thereby reducing variability and providing greater confidence in determining treatment efficacies for therapeutic interventions using a small number of animals. © 2010.
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