A mouse model of Sendai virus infection was adopted to examine the neurovirulence of parainfluenza viruses. A nested polymerase chain reaction detected the Sendai virus nucleoprotein gene in the olfactory bulbs of intranasally infected mice for at least 168 days post-infection (p.i.) and virus-specific messenger RNAs for 28 days p.i. Viral proteins were histochemically detected in some olfactory neurons for 7 days p.i. They were also found in glomeruli of the olfactory bulbs but not in the mitral cells and the tufted cells. No virus was detected in the whole brain not including the olfactory bulbs. When mice were inoculated with UV-inactivated virus, the viral RNA was present in the olfactory bulbs for a short period of 14 days, with no demonstrable viraemia. These results demonstrate that the parainfluenza virus directly accesses the central nervous system via olfactory neurons and establishes long-term persistence in the nerve tissue.


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