Comparative neurovirulence of attenuated and non-attenuated strains of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus in mice.

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  • 1 Diagnostic Systems Division, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland 21702-5011, USA.

A candidate live-attenuated virus vaccine for protection against Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) (designated V3526) was tested in mice to measure the magnitude, duration, and kinetics of virus replication in the blood and the central nervous system and its phenotypic stability after multiple passages in mice and cell culture. All results were compared to parallel experiments with parental virus and the existing VEE virus vaccine, TC-83. Maximum virus titers in the brains of V3526-inoculated mice were between 10- and 100-fold less than those observed in brains of mice inoculated intracranially (i.c.) with either the parental virus or TC-83. Neither V3526 nor TC-83 was lethal in BALB/c mice inoculated i.c. However, mice inoculated with TC-83 developed acute symptoms lasting at least 14 days. In contrast, i.c. inoculation of TC-83 was uniformly lethal for C3H/HeN mice. V3526 was avirulent in both BALB/c and C3H/HeN mice after i.c. inoculation. The virulence characteristics of V3526 remained unchanged after five serial i.c. passages in mouse brains or after five cell culture passages. Finally, pathologic changes induced after i.c. inoculation of V3526 were consistently less severe and of shorter duration than those observed in TC-83-inoculated mice. Based on these results, V3526 is stable and appears to be significantly less neurovirulent in mice than TC-83.