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Virology. 2001 Jun 5;284(2):190-202.

Immunopathogenesis and immune modulation of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus-induced disease in the mouse.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7290, USA.


The course of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) disease in immunodeficient and immunologically normal mice was compared to define the role of the immune system in this disease process. Immunocompetent mice infected with VEE exhibited a biphasic illness characterized by an early self-limiting lymphoid phase and a fatal CNS phase. The lymphoid phase of the illness was characterized by extensive viral replication within spleen, thymus, Peyer's patches, and lymph nodes, was accompanied by a high-titered serum viremia, and resolved with the production of VEE-specific IgM class antibody at 72 h postinfection (p.i.). Immunocompetent animals survived an average of 6.8 +/- 1.2 days before succumbing to fulminant encephalitis. In contrast, SCID mice infected with VEE showed a persistent replication of virus throughout all organs tested beginning at 24 h p.i. VEE-infected SCID mice exhibited a severe spongiform encephalopathy with 100% mortality and an average survival time of 8.9 +/- 0.9 days. These studies indicated that the characteristic organ tropism of VEE in the mouse is due in large part to an early anti-viral state, the establishment of which is dependent upon the presence of an intact immune system. Finally, the CNS pathology in a VEE-infected mouse had a significant immunologic component. However, in contrast to other neurovirulent alphaviruses, VEE was directly cytopathic for the cells of the CNS, even in the absence of an immune response.

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