Studies were undertaken to determine whether anti-ovine progressive pneumonia virus (OPPV) antibody responses in serum or OPP provirus levels in peripheral blood associate with the degree of histologically measured tissue lesions in naturally OPPV-infected sheep. Sections of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded, and hematoxylin- and eosin-stained lung, mammary gland, carpal synovial membrane, and brain tissues from 11 OPPV-infected ewes (mean age of 8.6 years) and 5 OPPV-uninfected ewes (mean age of 6 years) were evaluated for lesion severity. Ovine progressive pneumonia (OPP) provirus levels and anti-OPPV antibody titers in peripheral blood and serum samples, respectively, were measured upon euthanasia and 3 years prior to euthanasia. Both mean peripheral OPP provirus levels and mean serum anti-surface envelope glycoprotein (anti-SU) antibody titers at the time of euthanasia were significantly higher in ewes with moderate to severe histological lesions than in ewes with no to mild histological lesions. However, although mean peripheral blood OPP provirus levels at euthanasia and 3 years prior to euthanasia significantly correlated with the highest histological lesion score for any affected tissue (two-tailed P values, 0.03 and 0.02), mean serum anti-SU antibody titers, anti-capsid antibody titers, and anti-transmembrane 90 antibody titers at euthanasia did not show a significant correlation with the highest histological lesion score for any tissue (two-tailed P values, 0.32, 0.97, and 0.18, respectively). These data are the first to show that OPP provirus levels predict and correlate with the extent of OPPV-related histological lesions in various OPPV-affected tissues. These findings suggest that peripheral OPP provirus levels quantitatively contribute more to the development of histological lesions than the systemic anti-SU antibody host immune response
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