Hemolytic Moraxella bovis was instilled into the conjunctival sac of gnotobiotic calves, and conjunctivae were sampled serially after infection. Bilateral lesions developed in seven of eight infected calves. Histologically, M. bovis was first seen within swollen epithelial cells near the lid margins and occasionally within superficial epithelium in other areas. Conjunctival erosions and ulcers were seen in later stages. Scanning electron microscopy showed M. bovis in pits on surfaces of epithelial cells and in erosions on palpebral conjunctivae; lesions were prominent near lid margins. By transmission electron microscopy, M. bovis was seen within swollen epithelial cells near lid margins; many epithelial cells had undergone cytolysis. This study demonstrates that virulent M. bovis can invade bovine conjunctival epithelial cells and cause conjunctivitis in the absence of injurious ultraviolet irradiation or other predisposing environmental factors.
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