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J Virol. 2009 Nov;83(22):11540-9. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02558-08. Epub 2009 Sep 2.

Peripheral immunization blocks lethal actions of vesicular stomatitis virus within the brain.

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


Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is the prototype virus for 75 or more negative-strand RNA viruses in the rhabdovirus family. Some of these viruses, including VSV, can cause neurological impairment or death upon brain infection. VSV has shown promise in the prevention and treatment of disease as a vaccine vector and an oncolytic virus, but infection of the brain remains a concern. Three VSV variants, the wild-type-related VSV-G/GFP and two attenuated viruses, VSV-CT1 and VSV-CT9-M51, were compared for neuroinvasiveness and neuromorbidity. In nonimmunized mice, direct VSV-G/GFP injection into the brain invariably resulted in lethal encephalitis; in contrast, partial survival was seen after direct injection of the attenuated VSV strains. In addition, both attenuated VSV strains showed significantly reduced neuroinvasiveness after intranasal inoculation of young postnatal day 16 mice. Of the three tested variants, VSV-CT9-M51 generated the lowest degree of neuropathology. Despite its attenuated state, peripheral inoculations of VSV-CT9-M51 targeted and killed human glioblastoma implanted into the mouse brain. Importantly, we show here that intranasal or intramuscular immunization prevents the lethal effects of subsequent VSV-G/GFP, VSV-CT1, and VSV-CT9-M51 injections into the brain. These results indicate that attenuated recombinant viruses show reduced neurovirulence and that peripheral immunization blocks the lethal actions of all VSVs tested.

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