In the grand schema of biomedical research, any species that is used as a laboratory animal will be judged ultimately on its ability to shed light on human disease: causes, pathogenesis, and therapy. Since its introduction into research more than 50 years ago, the Syrian hamster has been utilized in numerous model systems. The thesis of this symposium, as well as that of its predecessor three years ago has been that hamsters can be profitably employed to investigate infectious and oncologic diseases with immunologic overtones. At this symposium, several important, and quite unique, experimental systems have been described in the Syrian hamster, model systems that represent reasonably faithful replicas of human disease counterparts. Most turn on the extraordinary susceptibility of adult hamsters to infections with agents that are taxonomically identified with other species. For example, Dr. Niklaus Weiss has described in remarkable detail the infectious disease in hamsters caused by Dipetalonema viteae, a filarial parasite that causes a disorder that resembles the human disease, filariasis. A meticulous survey of the effect of this parasite on hamster immune responses, especially responses directed specifically at antigens expressed on the parasite, has been achieved. Infections of hamsters with bacterial agents also has been amply described with both Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Treponema pallidum. In fact, respiratory infections in hamsters with Mycoplasma pneumoniae and the human influenza virus are remarkably similar to the human diseases caused by these agents. Once again, the hamster proves to be uniquely susceptible to infection with these agents, which allows for an experimental analysis of the role of the immune system and other defense mechanisms in the pathogenesis and resolution of these diseases.
KeywordsSyrian Hamster Mycoplasma Pneumoniae Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Filarial Parasite Nervous System Disorder
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