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J Virol. 2007 Sep;81(18):9942-9. Epub 2007 Jul 11.

Fatal neurological disease in scrapie-infected mice induced for experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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Department of Neurology, Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel.


During the years or decades of prion disease incubation, at-risk individuals are certain to encounter diverse pathological insults, such as viral and bacterial infections, autoimmune diseases, or inflammatory processes. Whether prion disease incubation time and clinical signs or otherwise the pathology of intercurrent diseases can be affected by the coinfection process is unknown. To investigate this possibility, mice infected with the scrapie agent at both high and low titers were subsequently induced for experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an immune system-mediated model of central nervous system (CNS) inflammation. We show here that co-induced mice died from a progressive neurological disease long before control mice succumbed to classical scrapie. To investigate the mechanism of the co-induced syndrome, we evaluated biochemical and pathological markers of both diseases. Brain and spleen PrP(Sc) levels in the dying co-induced mice were comparable to those observed in asymptomatic scrapie-infected animals, suggesting that co-induced disease is not an accelerated form of scrapie. In contrast, inflammatory markers, such as demyelination, immune cell infiltrates, and gliosis, were markedly increased in co-induced mouse spinal cords. Activated astrocytes were especially elevated in the medulla oblongata. Furthermore, PrP(sc) depositions were found in demyelinated white matter areas in co-induced mouse spinal cords, suggesting the presence of activated infected immune cells that infiltrate into the CNS to facilitate the process of prion neuroinvasion. We hypothesize that inflammatory processes affecting the CNS may have severe clinical implications in subjects incubating prion diseases.

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