The corneas of latently infected mice were UV irradiated to induce reactivation of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in the trigeminal ganglion (TG). On days 1 to 4 after irradiation, TG were removed, serially sectioned and double stained to identify immune cells and virus antigens. Virus antigen was detected in small numbers (most commonly one) of neurons per ganglion as early as day 1, confirming the rapidity of reactivation and the neuron as the likely site of this event. The immune response was also rapid and effective since virus antigen was identified in immune cells at day 1 and by day 4 all samples were negative. The predominant infiltrating cells on days 1 and 2, when virus antigen was present and being cleared, were T cells, both CD4 and CD8. Later, large numbers of B cells appeared, suggesting that local antibody production may also be involved in controlling the reactivated infection. The observations suggest that a significant proportion of reactivation events do not result in disease of the eye or shedding of virus in the tear film. However, they also suggest that as little as one reactivating neuron in the ganglion may be sufficient to lead to such disease and/or shedding.


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