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J Virol. 2009 Jan;83(1):420-7. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01728-08. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

Brain trauma enhances transient cytomegalovirus invasion of the brain only in mice that are immunodeficient.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar St., New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is one of the most common viral pathogens leading to neurological dysfunction in individuals with depressed immune systems. How CMV enters the brain remains an open question. The hypothesis that brain injury may enhance the entrance of CMV into the brain was tested. Insertion of a sterile needle into the brain caused a dramatic increase in mouse CMV in the brains of immunodeficient SCID mice inoculated peripherally within an hour of injury and examined 1 week later; peripheral inoculation 48 h after injury and a 1-week survival resulted in only a modest infection at the site of injury. In contrast, uninjured SCID mice, as well as injured immunocompetent control mice, showed little sign of viral infection at the same time intervals. Direct inoculation of the brain resulted in widespread dispersal and enhanced replication of mCMV in SCID brains tested 1 week later but not in parallel control brains. Differential viremia was unlikely to account for the greater viral load in the SCID brain, since increased mCMV in the blood of SCID compared to controls was not detected until a longer interval. These data suggest that brain injury enhances CMV invasion of the brain, but only when the adaptive immune system is compromised, and that the brain's ability to resist viral infection recovers rapidly after injury.

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