Administration of vaccinia virus to mice may cause contact or bedding sentinel mice to test positive for orthopoxvirus antibodies: Case report and follow-up investigation

Diane J. Gaertner, Margaret Batchelder, Lawrence H. Herbst, Howard L. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Routine testing of bedding sentinels from a barrier room revealed one mouse seropositive to ectromelia virus (EV). Results of hemagglutination-inhibition testing and western blot analysis were confirmatory for orthopoxvirus antibodies. Additional seropositive animals were not identified. Interviews indicated that replication-competent vaccinia virus (VV), Western Reserve strain (VV-WR), recently had been given to mice. Although VV-WR was not expected to spread by contact or via fomites, the case evidence suggested transmission of vaccinia via soiled bedding. In a follow-up experiment, 15 index mice were inoculated with 107 plaque-forming units of VV by either subcutaneous or intrarectal instillation. A dedicated contact sentinel and a bedding sentinel were provided for each index mouse. All 15 index mice were positive for antibodies when tested 22 days after inoculation. One mouse, inoculated by the subcutaneous route, appeared ill and developed lesions on the proximal portion of the tail. The contact sentinel mouse housed with this index mouse was the only sentinel to seroconvert. We conclude that VV-WR can spread to contact sentinels and potentially to bedding sentinels. The ability of other VV strains to be transmitted horizontally and the susceptibility of different mouse strains to infection merit further investigation. The use of VV in animal facilities must be managed carefully since the available serologic tests do not distinguish between VV and EV, an exotic agent of major concern to laboratory animal facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-88
Number of pages4
JournalComparative Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • veterinary(all)

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