Similar levels of infectivity in the blood of mice infected with human-derived vCJD and GSS strains of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy


  • From the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences, American Red Cross, Rockville; Biometric Research Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda; Clearant, Gaithersburg; and the Laboratory of CNS Studies, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Larisa Cervenakova, MD, PhD, Plasma Derivatives Department, Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences, American Red Cross, 15601 Crabbs Branch Way, Rockville, MD 20855; e-mail:


BACKGROUND: The possible transmission of variant CJD (vCJD) through blood transfusion or use of plasma-derived products prompted this study comparing infectivity in murine models of vCJD and Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) disease, a non-vCJD form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE).

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: RIII/Fa/Dk (RIII) or Swiss-Webster (Swiss) mice were inoculated intracerebrally (IC) with mouse-adapted strains of vCJD or GSS (Fukuoka-1) of similar infectivity. Groups of RIII mice were euthanized 17 weeks after inoculation (during the incubation period), and another 23 weeks after inoculation (when symptomatic). Blood was collected, separated into components, and inoculated into groups of healthy mice; brains and spleens from all mice were harvested and tested for the presence of PrPres by Western blot using 6H4 MoAb.

RESULTS: Levels of 20-30 infectious doses per mL were present in buffy coat and plasma during both the incubation and symptomatic stages of disease; PLT pellet infectivity was lower (10 ID/mL) and RBCs were not infectious. The disease was transmitted more efficiently by IV than IC inoculation of plasma, but there was no difference observed with inoculation of buffy coat. The incubation period was shorter after IC inoculation of GSS- than vCJD-brain inocula. The amount of PrPres in spleens was similar for both TSE agents, but was slightly lower in brains of vCJD than GSS mice.

CONCLUSION: Infectivity was detected in blood components of mice infected with a human-derived strain of vCJD during both the preclinical and clinical phases of disease in a similarly low range of concentrations as in mice infected with a human-derived nonvariant strain (GSS, Fukuoka-1). Other measures of virulence, including brain infectivity titers, incubation periods, and the accumulation of PrPres in spleens and brains, were also comparable in both experimental models.