Foot-and-mouth disease virus persists in the light zone of germinal centres

Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is one of the most contagious viruses of animals and is recognised as the most important constraint to international trade in animals and animal products. Two fundamental problems remain to be understood before more effective control measures can be put in place. These problems are the FMDV “carrier state” and the short duration of immunity after vaccination which contrasts with prolonged immunity after natural infection. Here we show by laser capture microdissection in combination with quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemical analysis and corroborate by in situ hybridization that FMDV locates rapidly to, and is maintained in, the light zone of germinal centres following primary infection of naïve cattle. We propose that maintenance of non-replicating FMDV in these sites represents a source of persisting infectious virus and also contributes to the generation of long-lasting antibody responses against neutralising epitopes of the virus.

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