The avirulent high egg passage (HEP) strain of rabies virus produces an inapparent infection limited to the central nervous system (CNS) in intracerebrally inoculated adult mice. Heavy chain isotype (anti-µ antiserum) immunosuppression potentiates the infection, with a mortality of about 60% and with elevated virus titers in the brain. Anti-µ-treated mice fail to raise antibody responses to rabies virus although their T cell function is normal when measured by the concanavalin A response of splenic lymphocytes. This indicates that the B cell response plays an important role in clearance of rabies virus from the neuroparenchyma. Treatment with cyclophosphamide or by adult thymectomy, x-irradiation, and bone marrow reconstitution potentiates HEP infection to a greater extent than does isotype suppression. Since these suppressive techniques impair both T and B lymphocyte responses, the data suggest that cellular immune mechanisms may also contribute to host defenses against this central nervous system (CNS) virus infection.

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This work was supported in part by Grants NS 07077 and AI 11637 from the United States Public Health Service and a fellowship to Aaron Miller from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Jerry A. Winkelstein is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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