Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) is an enteric pathogen of mice which causes acute and chronic neurological disorders in the natural host. When brain-derived stocks of TMEV isolates are adapted to cell culture they predominantly form either large or small plaques. In this study the type of central nervous system (CNS) infection (acute versus chronic) and the associated disease occurring in mice inoculated intracerebrally with large and small plaque strains of TMEV was investigated.

Large and small plaque strains of TMEV were found to vary in virulence, type of neurological disease produced and ability to establish persistent CNS infection in mice. Two large plaque strains, GDVII and FA viruses, were highly virulent, produced acute encephalitis, but were cleared from the nervous systems of surviving animals. Therefore, it appears that these large plaque variants do not cause persistent CNS infection in mice.

In contrast, five small plaque strains, DA, WW, TO4, Yale and BeAn8386 viruses, were relatively avirulent, usually produced no illness during the first month after inoculation, but readily established persistent CNS infection in mice. Persistently infected mice later developed demyelinating disease. Having identified strains of TMEV that differ regarding their ability to persist, we now hope to be able to exploit this difference in elucidating the basic mechanism(s) of TMEV persistence.


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