Retroviruses and mouse embryos: a rapid model for neurovirulence and transplacental antiviral therapy

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Science  26 Jun 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4809, pp. 1671-1674
DOI: 10.1126/science.3037694


A murine model in which neurotropic retroviral infection can be studied over short periods of time was developed. Microinjection of Cas-Br-E virus into midgestation mouse embryos caused paralysis and death within 25 days after birth, in contrast to virus-infected neonates which develop disease only after 4 months. To evaluate whether antiviral drugs could cross the placental barrier and influence the course of the disease, the drug 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (AZT) was administered to infected embryos through the drinking water of pregnant females. AZT treatment markedly retarded the onset and course of virus-induced central nervous system disease, permitting animals to survive beyond 4 months of age. These results are evidence for effective antiviral treatment during gestation and in the perinatal period and are of potential significance for the management of maternal transmission of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus.