Although previous studies have shown that Colorado tick fever virus occurs only transiently in the serum, but persists for prolonged periods in the blood cell fraction of man and experimental animals, the exact nature of this cell-associated viraemia was unknown. Using virus isolation, fluorescent antibody staining, histological and electron-microscopic techniques, we have shown that persistent viraemia is predominantly due to virus contained within erythrocytes. Erythrocyte precursor cells are presumably infected in the bone marrow and are subsequently released into the blood stream, persisting for prolonged periods despite the presence of serum antibody. Virus either continues to replicate slowly or is stabilized and remains viable within the erythrocyte. Colorado tick fever virus may be a useful model virus for further study of the mechanism of blood cell infection, with implications for other arboviruses or viruses believed to be involved in leukaemia or other haematological disorders.


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