Mice immunized with a killed vaccine of phase I Bordetella bronchiseptica were challenged with various numbers of virulent B. bronchiseptica by intraperitoneal, intracerebral, or intranasal routes. The course of infection was compared among these routes, and the protective effect of vaccination was quantitatively analyzed. In ddN mice infected intraperitoneally with 1.8 X 10(8) cells (ca. 80 times the 50% lethal dose [LD50]) the organisms rapidly increased in the intraperitoneal fluid, spleen, and liver within few days and caused splenic atrophy, septicemia, and death. However, immunizations with 5 X 10(9) cells gave the mice a high agglutinin titer and suppressed the increase in the number of organisms. With four immunizations, the lungs and livers were clear within 3 days, and with one or two immunizations, they were clear within 7 days. These immunizations effectively protected the mice from death but did not protect them from splenic atrophy. In the intracerebral infection with 1.4 X 10(6) cells (ca. 1.2 X 10(5) LD50), the number of organisms rapidly increased in the brain and caused encephalitis, splenic atrophy, and death. However, four or five immunizations completely suppressed the increase in the brain and protected the mice from death and splenic atrophy. After intranasal infection with 4 X 10(6) cells (ca. 25 LD50), the organisms rapidly increased in the nasal cavity and lungs and caused pneumonia and death. Immunization with 5 X 10(9) cells was effective in clearing the organisms from the lungs and in protecting against death and splenic atrophy. However, the organisms were not cleared from the nasal cavity for 60 to 150 days after the challenge with as little as 10(2) cells, even in the mice with an agglutinin titer as high as 1:10,000.