Differential infection efficiencies of peripheral lung and tracheal tissues in sheep infected with Visna/maedi virus via the respiratory tract.

Tom N McNeilly, Peter Tennant, Lluis Lujan, Marta Perez, Gordon Harkiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The main routes of transmission of Visna/maedi virus (VMV), an ovine lentivirus, are thought to be through ingestion of infected colostrum and/or milk or through inhalation of respiratory secretions. Whereas oral transmission appears to be mediated via epithelial cells within the small intestine, the mechanism of virus uptake in the respiratory tract is unknown. In addition, it is not known whether infection is mediated by cell-associated or cell-free VMV, previous studies having not addressed this question. Intratracheal (i.t.) injection of VMV is known to be a highly efficient method of experimental infection, requiring as little as 10(1) TCID(50) VMV for successful infection. However, using a tracheal organ culture system, we show here that ovine tracheal mucosa is relatively resistant to VMV, with detectable infection only seen after incubation with high titres of virus (> or =10(5) TCID(50) ml(-1)). We also demonstrate that i.t. injection results in exposure of both trachea and the lower lung and that the time taken for viraemia and seroconversion to occur after lower lung instillation of VMV was significantly shorter than that observed for tracheal instillation of an identical titre of virus (P=0.030). This indicates that lower lung and not the trachea is a highly efficient site for VMV entry in vivo. Furthermore, cell-free virus was identified within the lung-lining fluid of naturally infected sheep for the first time. Together, these results suggest that respiratory transmission of VMV is mediated by inhalation of aerosols containing free VMV, with subsequent virus uptake in the lower lung.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)670-9
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of General Virology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid/virology
  • Female
  • Inhalation
  • Lung/virology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Pneumonia, Progressive Interstitial, of Sheep/physiopathology
  • Pneumonia, Progressive Interstitial, of Sheep/transmission
  • Pneumonia, Progressive Interstitial, of Sheep/virology
  • Respiratory System/virology
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases/physiopathology
  • Sheep Diseases/transmission
  • Sheep Diseases/virology
  • Trachea/virology
  • Visna
  • Visna-maedi virus/isolation & purification
  • Visna-maedi virus/pathogenicity

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