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Vet Microbiol. 2006 Mar 31;113(3-4):211-22. Epub 2005 Dec 5.

Pathogenesis of gammaherpesvirus infections.

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Institute of Virology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Gammaherpesviruses are members of an emerging subfamily among the Herpesviridae. Two genera are discriminated: (i) lymphocryptovirus, including its type species Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and (ii) rhadinovirus, including viruses of interest for medicine, veterinary medicine, and biomedical research, i.e. alcelaphine herpesvirus 1, bovine herpesvirus 4, equine herpesvirus 2, human herpesvirus 8, mouse herpesvirus 68, and ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2). The perception that these viruses have a narrow host range is misleading, since they cover a surprisingly wide host range, both on the cellular and the organism's level. For example, the natural range of OvHV-2 infection extends over a common animal order. While the host range determinants of EBV are well known, the corresponding features of the rhadinoviruses need still to be defined. Similarly, the gene expression patterns of the veterinary rhadinoviruses during latency require further characterization. In vivo, the gammaherpesviruses have evolved to actively protect their latently infected cells from being destroyed by immune functions of their native host. In return, those reservoir hosts have evolved to being infected and transmit the virus without overt disease symptoms. However, a balanced immune response needs to be in control over the number of infected cells. Virus excretion is usually at low level and may occur either constantly or intermittently. Animal species that are targeted by the virus but did not participate in the process of co-evolution as well as hosts with immune deficiencies are known to loose control over the amount of latently infected cells, which results in the development of lethal diseases, such as malignant catarrhal fever or Kaposi's sarcoma.

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