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Vaccine. 2012 Feb 8;30(7):1397-405. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.08.116. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Vaccinia virus-induced smallpox postvaccinal encephalitis in case of blood-brain barrier damage.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Virologie, Institut de Recherche Biomédicale des Armées-antenne de la Tronche-CRSSA, F-38700 La Tronche, France.


Smallpox vaccination is the only currently effective mean to combat the threat of variola virus used as a bioterrorism agent, although it is responsible for a rare but serious complication, the postvaccinal encephalitis (PVE). Development of safer vaccines therefore is a high priority as the PVE physiopathology is not well understood to date. If vaccinia virus (VACV) is responsible for PVE by central nervous system (CNS) dissemination, trans-migration of the VACV across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) would be supposed to be essential. Given the complexity of the pathogenesis of vaccinia neurovirulence, an in vitro BBB model was used to explore the mechanism of VACV to induce BBB permeability. Two VACV strains were studied, the neurovirulent Western Reserve strain (VACV-WR) and the vaccine reference Lister strain (VACV-List). A mouse model was also developed to study the ability of these two viral strains to propagate in the brain from the blood compartment, their neurovirulence and their neuropathogenesis. In vitro, the loss of permeability resulted from the tight-junctions disruption was induced by virus replication. The ability of VACV to release infectious particles at the abluminal side suggests the capacity of both VACV strains to migrate across the BBB from the blood to the CNS. In vivo, the virus replication in mice CNS was strain-dependent. The VACV-WR laboratory strain proved to be neuroinvasive and neurovirulent, whereas the VACV-List strain is safe in physiological conditions. Mice PVE was observed only with VACV-WR in the co-infection model, when BBB opening was obtained by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment. This study suggests that VACV is able to cross the BBB but encephalitis occurs only in the presence of a co-infection by bacteria. So, a model of co-infection, mimicked by LPS treatment, could have important implication towards the assessment of neurovirulence of new vaccines.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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