Phenotypic characterization of encephalitis in the brains of goats experimentally infected with Spanish Goat Encephalitis Virus.

Spanish goat encephalitis virus (SGEV) is a novel tickborne flavivirus subtype, closely related to the flavivirus louping ill virus (LIV). SGEV caused a severe, acute and mortal neurological disease outbreak in northern Spain in a goat herd. In order to characterize the cell population in lesions and to determine the distribution of the inflammatory cells, central nervous system (CNS) samples of nine female Alpine goats challenged subcutaneously with SGEV over the right thorax behind the elbow were evaluated using immunohistochemistry (microglia-Iba1, T lymphocytes-CD3, B lymphocytes-CD20 and astrocytes-GFAP).

The number of microglia (37.8 %) and T lymphocytes (21.5 %) was greater than the number of B lymphocytes (16.8 %). Goats were classified into clusters based on the severity of histological lesions in CNS (A-mild to moderate lesions and B-severe lesions). Microglia was significantly more abundant than T and B lymphocytes in cluster B (severe lesions). The total area occupied by glial foci revealed that medulla oblongata and spinal cord were the most affected tissues.

Astrogliosis (GFAP+) was present in the majority of the CNS sections being near to the pial surface. The lesion predominance on the right side of the medulla oblongata, which could be associated to the site of challenge suggestive of neurotropic route was also statistically confirmed. Results suggest that the cellular immune response would be the most important response to the SGEV infection.

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