Clearance of herpes simplex virus (HSV) from spinal ganglia of experimentally infected mice is known to be dependent on CD8+ T-cells but not on destruction of infected neurons, consistent with a non-cytolytic Tc2 response in the peripheral nervous system. Here, we demonstrate the striking rapidity of such a response in C57BL/10 mice. The number of neurons containing viral DNA and viral antigens increased until 136 h after inoculation of virulent HSV type 1 (strain SC16) into flank skin. Subsequent disappearance of HSV DNA and antigens from infected ganglia was virtually complete only 8 h later. A consistent and unexpected observation was detection of viral antigens in sensory nerve axons for at least 8 h after their disappearance from neuronal somas, raising the intriguing possibility that virus or viral proteins may be transported distally after infection has been terminated.


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