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Contemp Top Lab Anim Sci. 2002 Jul;41(4):30-5.

Assessment of static isolator cages with automatic watering when used with conventional husbandry techniques as a factor in the transmission of mouse hepatitis virus.

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Yale University, Section of Comparative Medicine, PO Box 208016, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8016, USA.


This study evaluated protection against mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) afforded by static filter-top caging when automatic watering was used with conventional husbandry techniques as a labor-saving option. We fitted one side of a double-sided 72-cage rack with valves external to each cage; cages on the other side were fitted with shielded internal valves. More than 50% of the mice were breeding mice, and 30% were genetically altered. One cage of mice on each shelf on both sides of the rack was infected with MHV-A59. Each row of cages also contained one standard cage (no filter top) of uninoculated mice at various distances from the infected cage. At 2, 4, and 6 weeks after infection of the mice in the test cages, uninoculated mice in 22 cages were tested by serology, and at 8 weeks the uninoculated mice in 54 cages were tested by serology and those in 24 cages were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of fecal samples to assess transmission of infection. At 8 weeks post-infection, mice in one uninoculated cage (which had a filter top and an internal valve and was adjacent to a cage of inoculated mice) was seropositive. Examination of feces by PCR revealed MHV shedding in mice in nine uninoculated cages (three lacking filter tops but with internal valve cages; two with filter tops and internal valve cages and adjacent to non-filter top cages; two non-filter-top cages with external valves; and two filter-top cages with external valves, of which one was adjacent to a non-filter-top cage). Routine husbandry using either automatic water valve system prevented (with one exception) transmission among filter-top cages for at least 6 weeks. The 10 cages where transmission occurred were non-filter-top cages (n = 5) and filter-top cages adjacent to non-filter top, infected, or sentinel cages (n = 5). These results suggest that the use of filter top-caging with automatic watering may limit MHV transmission for 6 weeks, during which immunocompetent mice would be expected to clear the virus. Our findings also suggest that long-term use of automatic watering in static filter-top cages handled using conventional husbandry techniques may not prevent transmission in the vicinity of high virus concentrations or open caging.

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