Bacillus cereus G9241 makes anthrax toxin and capsule like highly virulent B. anthracis Ames but behaves like attenuated toxigenic nonencapsulated B. anthracis Sterne in rabbits and mice.Infect Immun 2011; 79(8):3012-9II
Bacillus cereus G9241 was isolated from a welder with a pulmonary anthrax-like illness. The organism contains two megaplasmids, pBCXO1 and pBC218. These plasmids are analogous to the Bacillus anthracis Ames plasmids pXO1 and pXO2 that encode anthrax toxins and capsule, respectively. Here we evaluated the virulence of B. cereus G9241 as well as the contributions of pBCXO1 and pBC218 to virulence. B. cereus G9241 was avirulent in New Zealand rabbits after subcutaneous inoculation and attenuated 100-fold compared to the published 50% lethal dose (LD(50)) values for B. anthracis Ames after aerosol inoculation. A/J and C57BL/6J mice were comparably susceptible to B. cereus G9241 by both subcutaneous and intranasal routes of infection. However, the LD(50)s for B. cereus G9241 in both mouse strains were markedly higher than those reported for B. anthracis Ames and more like those of the toxigenic but nonencapsulated B. anthracis Sterne. Furthermore, B. cereus G9241 spores could germinate and disseminate after intranasal inoculation into A/J mice, as indicated by the presence of vegetative cells in the spleen and blood of animals 48 h after infection. Lastly, B. cereus G9241 derivatives cured of one or both megaplasmids were highly attenuated in A/J mice. We conclude that the presence of the toxin- and capsule-encoding plasmids pBCXO1 and pBC218 in B. cereus G9241 alone is insufficient to render the strain as virulent as B. anthracis Ames. However, like B. anthracis, full virulence of B. cereus G9241 for mice requires the presence of both plasmids.