Mice that did not contain antibodies to rotavirus were orally infected with murine rotavirus (EDIM strain) and observed over 7 days. As judged by ELISA, only the small intestine was infected, not the colon. The infection was biphasic, viral antigen peaks being observed at 48 h and approximately 120 h post-infection. Clinically evident diarrhoea was maximal at 72 h. Virus in the upper, middle and lower regions of the small intestine was mainly tissue-associated; most virus was found in the middle small intestine. Two peaks (48 h and 120 h post-infection) of virus antigen were observed in the colon, but these corresponded to luminal, not tissue-associated viral antigen. Only enterocytes in the upper two-thirds of villus epithelia were infected as judged by fluorescent-antibody analysis and transmission electron microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy revealed morphological appearances not hitherto correlated with the progress of the infection: villus tips were convoluted, corresponding to the shedding of virus-infected cells but the lower regions of infected villi were shrunken and considerably narrowed compared to tips.


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