Poliovirus and enterovirus 71 (EV71) are both neurotropic enteroviruses that cause serious neurological diseases, such as poliomyelitis and encephalitis. The neurovirulence of EV71 in cynomolgus monkeys was demonstrated previously by intraspinal inoculation. In this study, an improved simian model of EV71 infection was established by using intravenous inoculation, which revealed clinical and neuropathological similarities between this model and human cases of encephalitis. Experimental EV71 infection induced direct neurological manifestations, such as tremor, ataxia and brain oedema, but not non-neurological complications, such as pulmonary oedema and cardiac failure. Using this model of EV71 infection, the neurotropic characteristics of the prototype strains of EV71 and poliovirus type 1 (PV1) were compared. Three monkeys were inoculated intravenously with 10(5.5) TCID50 EV71 and all developed neurological disease signs within 4-6 days of inoculation. However, after inoculation with 10(5.5) TCID50 PV1 strain OM1 (PV1-OM1), the major manifestation was flaccid paralysis, starting from the lower limbs 6-9 days post-inoculation. Histopathological and virological analyses of moribund monkeys revealed that disseminated EV71 infection was characterized by severe panencephalitis involving both the pyramidal and extrapyramidal systems. In contrast, the lesions induced by PV1-OM1 were mainly restricted to the pyramidal tract, particularly the spinal motor neurons, thalamus and motor cortex. In conclusion, neuropathological involvement in this model correlated well with the apparent differences in neurological disease induced by EV71 and PV1-OM1. Thus, intravenous inoculation with EV71 is an excellent model to study the neuropathology of EV71 and to evaluate candidate vaccines and potential antiviral agents.