Partial protection and intrathecal invasion of CD8+ T cells in acute canine distemper virus infection

A. Tipold, M. Vandevelde, R. Wittek, Peter F Moore, A. Summerfield, A. Zurbriggen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Initial non-inflammatory demyelination in canine distemper virus infection (CDV) develops against a background of severe immunosuppression and is therefore, thought to be virus-induced. However, recently we found a marked invasion of T cells throughout the central nervous system (CNS) in dogs with acute distemper despite drastic damage to the immune system. In the present study, this apparent paradox was further investigated by immunophenotyping of lymphocytes, following experimental CDV challenge in vaccinated and non-vaccinated dogs. In contrast to CDV infected, unprotected dogs, vaccinated dogs did not become immunosuppressed and exhibited a strong antiviral immune response following challenge with virulent CDV. In unprotected dogs rapid and drastic lymphopenia was initially due to depletion of T cells. In peripheral blood, CD4+ T cells were more sensitive and depleted earlier and for a longer time than CD8+ cells which recovered soon. In the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) we could observe an increase in the T cell to B cell and CD8+ to CD4+ ratios. Thus, partial protection of the CD8+ cell population could explain why part of the immune function in acute distemper is preserved. As found earlier, T cells invaded the CNS parenchyma in these dogs but also in the protected challenged dogs, which did not develop any CNS disease at all. Since markers of T cell activation were upregulated in both groups of animals, this phenomenon could in part be related to non-specific penetration of activated T cells through the blood brain barrier. However, in diseased animals much larger numbers of T cells were found in the CNS than in the protected dogs, suggesting that massive invasion of T cells in the brain requires CDV expression in the CNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 26 2001


  • Canine distemper virus infection
  • CNS
  • Dog
  • Lymphocyte subsets
  • Partial protection of CD8 T cells
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


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