Enterovirus A71 (EV-A71) causes self-limiting, hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) that may rarely be complicated by encephalomyelitis. Person-to-person transmission is usually by fecal-oral or oral-oral routes. To study viral replication sites in the oral cavity and other tissues, and to gain further insights into virus shedding and neuropathogenesis, we developed a consistent, orally-infected, 2-week-old hamster model of HFMD and EV-A71 encephalomyelitis. Tissues from orally-infected, 2-week-old hamsters were studied by light microscopy, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization to detect viral antigens and RNA, respectively, and by virus titration. Hamsters developed the disease and died after 4-8 days post infection; LD50 was 25 CCID50. Macroscopic cutaneous lesions around the oral cavity and paws were observed. Squamous epithelium in the lip, oral cavity, paw, skin, and esophagus, showed multiple small inflammatory foci around squamous cells that demonstrated viral antigens/RNA. Neurons (brainstem, spinal cord, sensory ganglia), acinar cells (salivary gland, lacrimal gland), lymphoid cells (lymph node, spleen), and muscle fibres (skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles), liver and gastric epithelium also showed varying amounts of viral antigens/RNA. Intestinal epithelium, Peyer's patches, thymus, pancreas, lung and kidney were negative. Virus was isolated from oral washes, feces, brain, spinal cord, skeletal muscle, serum, and other tissues. Our animal model should be useful to study squamous epitheliotropism, neuropathogenesis, oral/fecal shedding in EV-A71 infection, person-to-person transmission, and to test anti-viral drugs and vaccines.
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