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Lab Anim Sci. 1996 Dec;46(6):602-11.

Mousepox outbreak in a laboratory mouse colony.

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Technical Services Department, Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Mousepox was diagnosed in and eradicated from a laboratory mouse colony at the Naval Medical Research Institute. The outbreak began with increased mortality in a single room; subsequently, small numbers of animals in separate cages in other rooms were involved. Signs of disease were often mild, and overall mortality was low; BALB/cByJ mice were more severely affected, and many of them died spontaneously. Conjunctivitis was the most common clinical sign of disease in addition to occasional small, crusty scabs on sparsely haired or hairless areas of skin. Necropsy findings included conjunctivitis, enlarged spleen, and pale liver. Hemorrhage into the pyloric region of the stomach and proximal portion of the small intestine was observed in experimentally infected animals. In immune competent and immune deficient mice, the most common histologic finding was multifocal to coalescing splenic necrosis; necrosis was seen less frequently in liver, lymph nodes, and Peyer's patches. Necrosis was rarely observed in ovary, vagina, uterus, colon, or lung. Splenic necrosis often involved over 50% of the examined tissue, including white and red pulp. Hepatic necrosis was evident as either large, well-demarcated areas of coagulative necrosis or as multiple, random, interlacing bands of necrosis. Intracytoplasmic eosinophilic inclusion bodies were seen in conjunctival mucosae and haired palpebra. Ectromelia virus was confirmed as the causative agent of the epizootic by electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, animal inoculations, serologic testing, virus isolation, and polymerase chain reaction. Serologic testing was of little value in the initial stages of the outbreak, although 6 weeks later, orthopoxvirus-specific antibody was detected in colony mice by indirect fluorescent antibody and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay procedures. The outbreak originated from injection of mice with a contaminated, commercially produced, pooled mouse serum. The most relevant concern may be the unknown location of the source of the virus and the presence of a reservoir for this virus within the United States.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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