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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2014 Nov;73(11):999-1008. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0000000000000122.

Enterovirus 71 can directly infect the brainstem via cranial nerves and infection can be ameliorated by passive immunization.

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From the Department of Pathology (SHT, KTW) and Department of Biomedical Science (KCO), Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Enterovirus 71 (EV71)-associated hand, foot, and mouth disease may be complicated by encephalomyelitis. We investigated EV71 brainstem infection and whether this infection could be ameliorated by passive immunization in a mouse model. Enterovirus 71 was injected into unilateral jaw/facial muscles of 2-week-old mice, and hyperimmune sera were given before or after infection. Harvested tissues were studied by light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and viral titration. In unimmunized mice, viral antigen and RNA were detected within 24 hours after infection only in ipsilateral cranial nerves, motor trigeminal nucleus, reticular formation, and facial nucleus; viral titers were significantly higher in the brainstem than in the spinal cord samples. Mice given preinfection hyperimmune serum showed a marked reduction of ipsilateral viral antigen/RNA and viral titers in the brainstem in a dose-dependent manner. With optimum hyperimmune serum given after infection, brainstem infection was significantly reduced in a time-dependent manner. A delay in disease onset and a reduction of disease severity and mortality were also observed. Thus, EV71 can directly infect the brainstem, including the medulla, via cranial nerves, most likely by retrograde axonal transport. This may explain the sudden cardiorespiratory collapse in human patients with fatal encephalomyelitis. Moreover, our results suggest that passive immunization may still benefit EV71-infected patients who have neurologic complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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