Hairy cell (HC) transformation of human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) by Coxiella burnetii was studied to clarify the significance of persistency of C. burnetii in a hairy cell line (designated "TOL"). TOL cells which exhibited HC characteristics in hairy cell leukemia (HCL) were persistently infected with C. burnetii. Two strains of C. burnetii, our isolate from TOL cells and the original isolate in 1935, the Nine Mile strain from American Type Culture Collection (ATCC, U.S.A), were inoculated to PBL cultures. HC transformation not only by our isolates (87%) but also by Nine Mile strain (100%) was demonstrated in an average of 20 days. The original observation that Coxiella induced HC transformation in vitro was also confirmed in experiments with PBL exposed to C. burnetii in vivo. Spontaneous development of HC were observed in cultures of PBL only from coxiellemic cases (12/24) but not from C. burnetii negative cases (0/57). All HC cell lines (34) as determined by their morphology and cytochemical markers of HC in HCL remained infected with C. burnetii invariably.
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