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PATHOGENICITY OF A VENEZUELAN EQUINE ENCEPHALOMYELITIS SEROTYPE IE VIRUS ISOLATE FOR PONIES

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  • 1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, Iowa
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The enzootic or endemic strains of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) virus (ID, IE, IF, and II-VI) are considered avirulent. In 1993 and 1996, outbreaks of encephalitis occurred in the horse populations in the Chiapas and Oaxaca provinces of Mexico, respectively. In both instances, enzootic VEE virus subserotype IE was isolated from brain tissues of dead horses. The present study investigated the pathogenicity of the Chiapas viral isolate (NVSL VEE IE 93-42124) in ponies. Three ponies were inoculated intradermally with 4, 5, and 6 logs, respectively, of the NVSL VEE IE 93-42124 viral isolate. All ponies showed fluctuations in body temperature, encephalitis, and other signs of infection with VEE virus. Virus was isolated only from the blood of ponies from day 1 to day 3 postinfection. Microscopic examination of hematoxylin and eosin–stained tissue sections showed mild to moderate nonsuppurative encephalitis, perivascular cuffing by mononuclear cells, gliosis, and meningoencephalitis. Antibody (IgM) to VEE virus IE was unable to differentiate between various subserotypes of VEE I viruses (serotypes IAB, IC, ID, and IF). Virus neutralizing antibody titers to heterologous VEE I viruses were 10–100-fold less than those for NVSL VEE IE 93-42124 virus and Mena II, a human isolate of VEE IE virus. The study confirmed that NVSL VEE IE 93-42124 virus, which was isolated from a brain of a horse during an outbreak of VEE in Chiapas, Mexico, was pathogenic for ponies.

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