Pathologic and immunohistochemical findings in naturally occuring West Nile virus infection in horses

Vet Pathol. 2001 Jul;38(4):414-21. doi: 10.1354/vp.38-4-414.


The pathologic and peroxidase immunohistochemical features of West Nile flavivirus (WNV) infection were compared in four horses from the northeastern United States and six horses from central Italy. In all 10 animals, there were mild to severe polioencephalomyelitis with small T lymphocyte and lesser macrophage perivascular infiltrate, multifocal glial nodules, neutrophils, and occasional neuronophagia. Perivascular hemorrhages, also noted macroscopically in two animals, were observed in 50% of the horses. In the four American horses, lesions extended from the basal nuclei through the brain stem and to the sacral spinal cord and were more severe than the lesions observed in the six Italian horses, which had moderate to severe lesions mainly in the thoracolumbar spinal cord and mild rhombencephalic lesions. WNV antigen was scant and was identified within the cytoplasm of a few neurons, fibers, glial cells, and macrophages. WNV infection in horses is characterized by lesions with little associated antigen when compared with WNV infection in birds and some fatal human infections and with other important viral encephalitides of horses, such as alphavirus infections and rabies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / veterinary*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / virology
  • Female
  • Horse Diseases / metabolism
  • Horse Diseases / pathology*
  • Horse Diseases / virology*
  • Horses
  • Immunohistochemistry / veterinary
  • Italy
  • Male
  • New Jersey
  • West Nile Fever / pathology
  • West Nile Fever / veterinary*
  • West Nile Fever / virology
  • West Nile virus / isolation & purification*


  • Antigens, Viral