The course of infection of a pancreas-adapted isolate of coxsackievirus B4 was followed over a 10 month period in a murine model. Following intraperitoneal inoculation a typical acute infection was seen in nine of 10 inbred mouse strains. Virus rapidly infected the exocrine pancreas, titres peaking 3 to 4 days post-infection (p.i.). Lesions were almost exclusively confined to pancreatic acinar cells and varied in severity among the inbred strains. Virus shed into the blood-stream was not cell-associated. Evidence of persistent infection was found in nine mouse strains and infective virus was recovered from the pancreas of seven strains for up to 10 months p.i. Approximately 28% of pancreases examined beyond the acute phase showed focal inflammation and 22% showed focal necrosis (cell death). Virus was occasionally recovered from other organs (heart, liver and spleen), but lesions were rarely seen. Virus-specific antigen was localized to small groups of pancreatic acinar cells using an indirect immunogold silver staining technique. These observations suggested that the virus persists in pancreatic tissues because it seems unlikely that virus disseminated from distant sites would cause such localized infection. In three of these strains, the course of infection may have been influenced by superinfection with mouse hepatitis virus.


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