Theiler’s Virus-Induced Demyelinating Disease in Mice

Picornavirus Animal Model
  • Howard L. Lipton
  • Mauro C. dal Canto
Part of the Infectious Agents and Pathogenesis book series (IAPA)


The mouse encephalomyelitis viruses are naturally occurring enteric pathogens of mice. Discovered by Max Theiler in the early 1930s, these viruses are frequently referred to as Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis viruses (TMEV).1 Their host range appears to be quite narrow, and serological evidence indicates that Mus musculus is the natural host. The TMEV are present in virtually all nonbarrier mouse colonies throughout the world, where they cause asymptomatic intestinal infections. Rarely, TMEV spreads to the central nervous system (CNS), producing encephalitis or, more commonly, spontaneous paralysis, i.e., poliomyelitis.2,3 The incidence of spontaneous paralysis is low, on the order of one paralyzed animal per 1000–5000 mice in a colony. Since TMEV may go undetected unless appropriate serological testing is performed, these agents are a potential hazard for investigators using mice in biomedical research. In recent years, this group of viruses has assumed additional importance because TMEV infection in mice provides one of the few available experimental animal models for multiple sclerosis.4–6 TMEV-induced demyelinating disease is perhaps the most relevant animal model for multiple sclerosis because (1) chronic pathological involvement is essentially limited to the CNS white matter; (2) myelin breakdown is accompanied by mononuclear cell inflammation; (3) pathological changes show demyelinating lesions of different ages, suggesting that disease may be recurrent; (4) demyelination results in clinical disease (spasticity, extensor spasms, and neurogenic bladder) involving upper motor neurons; (5) myelin breakdown is immune mediated; and (6) the disease is under multigenic control with a strong linkage to certain major histocompatibility complex genotypes.


Myelin Basic Protein Demyelinating Disease Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis Mouse Central Nervous System Myelin Breakdown 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard L. Lipton
    • 1
  • Mauro C. dal Canto
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyNorthwestern University Medical SchoolChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Neurology and Pathology (Neuropathology)Northwestern University Medical SchoolChicagoUSA

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