Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes varicella (chickenpox), becomes latent in ganglia along the entire neuraxis, and may reactivate to cause herpes zoster (shingles). VZV may infect ganglia via retrograde axonal transport from infected skin or through hematogenous spread. Simian varicella virus (SVV) infection of rhesus macaques provides a useful model system to study the pathogenesis of human VZV infection. To dissect the virus and host immune factors during acute SVV infection, we analyzed four SVVseronegative Chinese rhesus macaques infected intratracheally with cell-associated 5×103plaque-forming units (pfu) of SVV-expressing green fluorescent protein (n=2) or 5×104pfu of wild-type SVV (n=2). All monkeys developed viremia and SVV-specific adaptive B- and T-cell immune responses, but none developed skin rash. At necropsy 21 days postinfection, SVV DNA was found in ganglia along the entire neuraxis and in viscera, and SVV RNA was found in ganglia, but not in viscera. The amount of SVV inoculum was associated with the extent of viremia and the immune response to virus. Our findings demonstrate that acute SVV infection of Chinese rhesus macaques leads to ganglionic infection by the hematogenous route and the induction of a virus-specific adaptive memory response in the absence of skin rash.

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Journal of NeuroVirology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Ouwendijk, W., Mahalingam, R., Traina-Dorge, V., van Amerongen, G., Wellish, M., Osterhaus, A., … Verjans, G. (2012). Simian varicella virus infection of Chinese rhesus macaques produces ganglionic infection in the absence of rash. Journal of NeuroVirology, 18(2), 91–99. doi:10.1007/s13365-012-0083-4