Non-human primate herpesviruses establish and maintain a lifelong persistent infection in immunocompetent hosts in the absence of clinical signs of disease. A fundamental issue for understanding the natural history of non-human primate herpesviruses is whether the viruses are maintained in a truly latent state or one characterized by a low level of chronic expression. To address this issue, a real-time PCR assay was developed to quantify Cercopithecine herpesvirus type 1 (B virus) DNA in mucosal fluids of rhesus macaques. This assay was rapid, sensitive (10 genome copies) and specific for B virus obtained from multiple species of macaques. The shedding profile of B virus was compared to another endemic herpesvirus, rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV), in colony-reared monkeys. Mucosal swabs or saliva samples were taken daily from two groups of seropositive monkeys undergoing either a stressful relocation (group 1) or daily chair restraint (group 2). B virus DNA was detected in mucosal fluids from four animals relocated during the breeding season (group 1) but not from 10 animals moved at other times of the year. No B virus DNA was detected in any group 2 monkey. In contrast, RhCMV DNA was detected in the majority of animals of both groups 1 and 2. Detection of B virus DNA shedding is a relatively rare event associated with the breeding season, while RhCMV DNA is persistently detected in mucosal fluids of most monkeys.
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