Susceptibility to lethal infection with the KT281/75 strain of the tick-borne nairovirus, Dugbe virus, was similar in an outbred strain and several inbred strains of mice. For the outbred strain, both neural and extraneural routes of virus inoculation resulted in lethal infection, but susceptibility decreased with age and only intracerebral inoculation produced a lethal infection in adults. In newborn mice, subcutaneous (s.c.) inoculation of virus (analogous to a tick-bite) produced a disseminated infection, titres being highest in the upper respiratory tract (URT), spleen and liver at 5 days post-inoculation (p.i.), the heart at 7 days p.i. and brain by 8 days p.i. In neonates inoculated intranasally (i.n.), by contrast, virus spread rapidly from the URT to the brain by 2 days p.i., in the absence of a detectable viraemia. Virus was undetectable in the blood of s.c. and i.n. inoculated adults; in the former, virus replication was limited to the site of inoculation, and in the latter virus grew in the respiratory tract and again spread to the brain. Immunosuppression of i.n. inoculated adult mice with cyclophosphamide produced some mortality indicating that host defences are important in protecting the adult, especially as new-born and adult lung tissue were equally able to support the growth of Dugbe virus in culture. The similarity between the pattern of Dugbe virus infection in the mouse and that of other, more pathogenic nairoviruses suggests that, although haemorrhagic disease was not observed, this may be a useful model for studying the genetic basis of nairovirus virulence and for testing vaccines and anti-viral drugs.


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