Author(s): Kimberlin RH, Cole S, Walker CA
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Abstract Previous studies of mice infected peripherally with 139A scrapie showed that scrapie agent initially replicates outside the CNS and that invasion of the CNS occurs several weeks later by neural spread of infection along visceral autonomic fibres to the mid-thoracic cord, and thence to brain. Direct intracerebral infection of brain bypasses the need for extraneural replication and gives shorter incubation periods than peripheral routes. However, it was also found that the duration of the scrapie replication phase in brain, before clinical disease develops, is actually shorter with peripheral routes than with the intracerebral route. We have now investigated this surprising observation using the intraspinal route to reproduce just the neural phase of scrapie pathogenesis seen after peripheral infection. In studies of three strains of scrapie (263K, 139A and ME7) in either hamsters or mice, we have fulfilled the prediction that incubation periods should be shorter after intraspinal infection than after intracerebral infection. Detailed studies of 139A scrapie showed that the shorter incubation period by the intraspinal route could be accounted for by the shorter duration of the scrapie replication phase in brain before clinical disease developed. As a consequence, the severity of the vacuolar lesions in brain at the clinical stage of all three scrapie models was less after intraspinal infection than after intracerebral infection but the severities of vacuolation after intraspinal and intraperitoneal infection were remarkably similar. We speculate that (a) the site of injection (or of invasion) of the central nervous system determines which neural pathways become accessible for the spread of scrapie infection, and that (b) the duration of the neural phase of scrapie pathogenesis is related to the complexity of the pathways between the site of invasion and the clinical target areas in which, it is suggested, scrapie must replicate for disease to develop.
This article was published in Microb Pathog
and referenced in Journal of Neurological Disorders