Experimental induction of pulmonary fibrosis in horses with the gammaherpesvirus equine herpesvirus 5

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 11;8(10):e77754. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077754. eCollection 2013.


Gammaherpesviruses (γHV) are implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis in humans and murine models of lung fibrosis, however there is little direct experimental evidence that such viruses induce lung fibrosis in the natural host. The equine γHV EHV 5 is associated with equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis (EMPF), a progressive fibrosing lung disease in its natural host, the horse. Experimental reproduction of EMPF has not been attempted to date. We hypothesized that inoculation of EHV 5 isolated from cases of EMPF into the lungs of clinically normal horses would induce lung fibrosis similar to EMPF. Neutralizing antibody titers were measured in the horses before and after inoculation with EHV 5. PCR and virus isolation was used to detect EHV 5 in antemortem blood and BAL samples, and in tissues collected postmortem. Nodular pulmonary fibrosis and induction of myofibroblasts occurred in EHV 5 inoculated horses. Mean lung collagen in EHV 5 inoculated horses (80 µg/mg) was significantly increased compared to control horses (26 µg/mg) (p < 0.5), as was interstitial collagen (32.6% ± 1.2% vs 23% ± 1.4%) (mean ± SEM; p < 0.001). Virus was difficult to detect in infected horses throughout the experiment, although EHV 5 antigen was detected in the lung by immunohistochemistry. We conclude that the γHV EHV 5 can induce lung fibrosis in the horse, and hypothesize that induction of fibrosis occurs while the virus is latent within the lung. This is the first example of a γHV inducing lung fibrosis in the natural host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Gammaherpesvirinae / immunology
  • Gammaherpesvirinae / pathogenicity*
  • Horse Diseases / immunology
  • Horse Diseases / metabolism
  • Horse Diseases / virology*
  • Horses
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / immunology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / virology*


  • Antibodies, Viral

Grant support

Pfizer Animal Health, New York, N.Y. provided funding for this study. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.