Infection of the CB/Ss Lak hamster with Treponema pertenue is characterised by chronic cutaneous lesions and lymph nodes teeming with treponemes. Throughout the course of infection lymph node and spleen cells responded poorly to the mitogens concanavalin A, phytohaemagglutinin, and lipopolysaccharide. This impairment preceded clinical signs of infection and correlated well with the chronicity of framboesial infection. High concentrations of antigen from T pertenue, but not from the non-pathogenic Treponema phagedenis, depressed the mitogenic response of normal lymphoid cells. After framboesial hamsters were treated with penicillin the mitogenic activities of their lymph node and spleen cells were similar to or slightly raised above those of controls. No significant differences were detected among recipients of framboesial immune cells with or without mitogenic activity. Recipients of immune lymph node and spleen cells from penicillin-treated or non-penicillin-treated animals had no cutaneous lesions 21 days after infection and had significantly lower lymph node weights and fewer treponemes per node than recipients of cells from normal penicillin-treated or non-penicillin-treated animals. Since lymphocyte transformation in vitro does not correlate with in-vivo treponemicidal activity, it is not a valid approach to assess the protective immune capacity of the framboesial host.
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