One (KM91) of a series of isolates of alphaherpesvirus saimiri (αHVS) produced rapidly fatal encephalitis in rabbits following intradermal infection, whereas the others (KM180, KM322 and KM338) were non-lethal and produced ganglionitis and prolonged latency. Alphaherpesvirus saimiri KM91 initially produced ganglionitis but quickly ascended the spinal cord to the brain causing death 10 days post-infection. Prior infection with any of the three benign isolates or inoculation with β-propiolactone (βPL)-inactivated αHVS KM91 protected rabbits from lethal encephalitis when they were subsequently challenged with a lethal dose of αHVS KM91. Each of 20 rabbits co-inoculated in the same site with a lethal dose of αHVS KM91 and either αHVS KM322 (1.5 × 10 to 1.5 × 10 p.f.u.) or βPL-inactivated αHVS KM322 (1 × 10 p.f.u. equivalents) survived. In contrast only half of those co-inoculated with αHVS KM91 and βPL-inactivated αHVS KM91 (1 × 10 p.f.u. equivalents) survived. Co-inoculation of lethal αHVS KM91 (75 p.f.u.) and benign αHVS KM322 (1.5 × 10 p.f.u.) into opposite flanks resulted in protection from encephalitis in one of four rabbits. Alphaherpesvirus saimiri KM91 was shown to have the capacity to become latent in dorsal root ganglia if the rabbit did not die.


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