The primary infection of BALB/c mice with murine herpesvirus 68 (MHV-68) was investigated. When the virus was introduced intranasally, the lung was the main tissue infected, the virus being associated with alveolar epithelium and mononuclear cells. A productive infection lasted for 10 days, after which viral DNA could be detected by hybridization up to 30 days after infection. At that time lymphoproliferative accumulations were also observed in the lung, with formation of germinal centres. Virus could also be recovered from the heart, kidney, adrenal gland and spleen during the primary infection. In addition, the spleen appeared to be the major site of virus persistence, with latently infected cells detected up to 90 days post-infection. During the primary infection, there was atrophy of the thymus and spleen of clinically sick animals. In contrast, lymphoproliferative responses, typified by splenomegaly, were frequently seen in asymptomatic animals. The pattern of infection observed in MHV-68-infected mice is similar to that seen in infectious mononucleosis of man following Epstein—Barr virus infection. The model described in this paper may prove to be useful in studying natural gamma-herpesvirus infections of man and domestic animals.


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