Comparison of methods of identifying Helicobacter hepaticus in B6C3F1 mice used in a carcinogenesis bioassay

James G. Fox, Judith A. Macgregor, Zeli Shen, Xiantang Li, Robert Lewis, Charles A. Dangler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


In a long-term rodent bioassay evaluating the carcinogenicity of triethanolamine, there was equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity in male B6C3F1 mice, based on a marginal increase in the number, of hepato- cellular adenomas and hepatoblastomas. Interpretation was complicated by the presence of Helicobacter hepaticus in selected silver-stained liver sections which also had histological evidence of karyomegaly and oval cell hyperplasia. An increase in numbers of liver tumors, as evidence of carcinogenic activity, was also noted in female mice. However, H. hepaticus was not considered a complicating factor, because the livers mice did not have histological features compatible with H. hepaticus infection. A retrospective analysis of 51 liver tissue samples from the original carcinogenicity study was conducted to determine the incidence of H. hepaticus infection and to evaluate different diagnostic approaches for assessing the presence of H. hepaticus in livers lacking characteristic lesions. In an initial evaluation of seven mice with liver tumors, argyrophilic bacteria resembling H. hepaticus were observed in liver sections, associated with characteristic liver lesions of hepatocytic karyomegaly and oval cell hyperplasia. Frozen liver tissue was from four of these mice; all were confirmed to be infected with H. hepaticus by culture and PCR. In a larger subsequent analysis using frozen liver tissues from 44 mice without characteristic hepatic lesions, H. hepaticus-specific DNA was amplified from the livers of 21 of 44 of the mice (47%), compared to 14 of 44 of the mice (32%) having H. hepaticus cultured from their frozen liver tumors. The results of Hepaticus culture and H. hepaticus-specific PCR concurred (i.e., both positive and negative results) in 84% of the cases. Microscopic detection of immunofluorescence-labeled or silver-stained bacteria in liver sections was relatively insensitive compared to either culture or PCR detection. This study confirms the widespread prevalence of H. hepaticus in mice, its potential to confound experimental results, and the need to include diagnostic testing for H. hepaticus in a murine health monitoring program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1382-1387
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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