Mice infected with coxsackievirus B1 (CVB1) develop a chronic hindquarter muscle weakness which resembles human polymyositis. In this study, we used in situ hybridization to screen for persistent viral RNA in hamstring and quadriceps muscles from mice that displayed various degrees of clinical weakness. At 28 to 31 days postinfection, when chronic myositis is well developed but infectious virus can no longer be recovered, persistent CVB1 RNA was found in hindquarter skeletal muscle of all 12 infected animals examined. Persistent CVB1 showed a multifocal distribution within muscle and was associated with three different histopathology patterns (HPPs). These three HPPs (HPP-1, HPP-2, and HPP-3) represent potentially different stages in the mechanism of persistence. They are based on the pattern of grains, the location of hybridization signal within the muscle, and the accompanying histopathology. In HPP-1, virus persisted in nonnecrotic muscle fibers and was not directly associated with foci of inflammatory cells. HPP-2 consisted of virus contained within necrotic myocytes that were surrounded by inflammatory cells. HPP-3 was rare and showed virus inside infiltrating mononuclear cells in a region where muscle tissue had been extensively destroyed. Persistent CVB1 occurred more frequently in severely diseased animals and in tissue sections displaying intense inflammation. Moreover, HPP-2 showed a stronger association with tissue inflammation and hindquarter weakness than did HPP-1. These data demonstrate that CVB1 persists in skeletal muscle for at least 28 to 31 days postinfection and support the concept that this persistence plays a role in the development of murine polymyositis
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