Translational rodent models for research on parasitic protozoa – a review of confounders and possibilities

Totta Ehret, Francesca Torelli, Christian Klotz, Amy Wilson, Frank Seeber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Rodents, in particular Mus musculus, have a long and invaluable history as models for human diseases in biomedical research, although their translational value has been challenged in a number of cases. We provide some examples in which rodents have been suboptimal as models for human biology and discuss confounders which influence experiments and may explain some of the misleading results. Infections of rodents with protozoan parasites are no exception in requiring close consideration upon model choice. We focus on the significant differences between inbred, outbred and wild animals, and the importance of factors such as microbiota, which are gaining attention as crucial variables in infection experiments.

Frequently, mouse or rat models are chosen for convenience, e.g., availability in the institution rather than on an unbiased evaluation of whether they provide the answer to a given question. Apart from a general discussion on translational success or failure, we provide examples where infections with single-celled parasites in a chosen lab rodent gave contradictory or misleading results, and when possible discuss the reason for this. We present emerging alternatives to traditional rodent models, such as humanized mice and organoid primary cell cultures. So-called recombinant inbred strains such as the Collaborative Cross collection are also a potential solution for certain challenges. In addition, we emphasize the advantages of using wild rodents for certain immunological, ecological and/or behavioral questions. The experimental challenges (e.g. availability of species-specific reagents) that come with the use of such non-model systems are also discussed. Our intention is to foster critical judgment of both traditional and newly available translational rodent models for research on parasitic protozoa that can complement the existing mouse and rat models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number238
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • wild rodent
  • protozoa
  • parasite
  • model organism
  • mouse
  • rat
  • translational research


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