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Microb Pathog. 2002 Feb;32(2):49-60.

Pathogenesis of transplacental virus infection: pestivirus replication in the placenta and fetus following respiratory infection.

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  • 1School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, North Mymms, Qld 4072, Australia.


Although transplacental virus infections account for considerable morbidity and mortality in both animals and humans, very little is so far known about the pathways whereby virus reaches the conceptus, the subsequent virus-host interactions in the early phases of the infections, and the establishment of persistent non-lethal infection. Using a natural animal model we recently demonstrated that bovine pestivirus can spread from the site of infection to the ovine fetus within 72 h, despite the expression of interferon in the reproductive tract [1]. In the present study we demonstrate that pestivirus first establishes infection and spread within the allantoic and amniotic membranes and then the fetus, followed several days later by infection of the uterine glands. However, virus replication and spread within the fetus is, at least in part, controlled by fetal developmental factors. In fetuses less than 25 days of gestational age, the virus remains restricted to the bulbis cordis, the first brachial pouch and occasionally the aorta. Over the next few days the virus spreads to multiple tissues, in addition to becoming more widespread and pronounced within the initially infected tissues. A potential role for the binucleated cells of the allantochorion in the spread of the virus from the fetal to the maternal tissues was also found. These cells expressed high levels of viral antigen just prior to and during the time period in which virus antigen became detectable in the epithelial cells of the uterine glands, in endothelial cells of uterine vessels and in scattered macrophage-like cells in the uterine stroma. Most likely this relatively late virus transfer is inconsequential for the mother, since it occurs at a time when a maternal virus-specific antibody response is becoming measurable. This is in contrast to the fetus, where the infection will have established itself widely prior to the development of lymphoid tissues and a functional immune response, thus setting the scenario for development of specific tolerance to the persisting virus.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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