C3H/HeN mouse model for the evaluation of antiviral agents for the treatment of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus infection

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Antiviral Res



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The TC-83 vaccine strain of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) causes encephalitis and death in C3H/HeN mice infected by intranasal (i.n.) instillation. Since TC-83 is exempt as a select agent, this mouse model was used in the evaluation of antiviral therapies. Virus titers in the brains of infected mice peaked on 4 dpi and persisted at high levels until death at 9.4 ± 0.5 dpi. Mouse brains appeared histologically normal on 2 dpi, but developed meningoencephalitis, neuropil vacuolation, and gliosis by 8 dpi. Results from a protein cytokine array showed significant elevations over time in interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-12, MCP-1, IFNγ, TNFα, MIP-1α, and RANTES in homogenized brain samples of infected mice. Immunohistochemical staining showed a colocalization of viral antigen with neuron markers. Treatment with interferon-α B/D or ampligen significantly improved survival, brain virus titer and cytokine levels, mean day-to-death, and weight change in infected mice. The time-course of infection and disease parameters of mice infected with TC-83 VEEV were similar in many ways to disease parameters in mice infected with other VEEV strains. Thus, infection of C3H/HeN mice with TC-83 VEEV may serve as a suitable model for the evaluation of antiviral compounds for the treatment of this viral disease.