Measles virus infection of cells in perivascular infiltrates in the brain in subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: confirmation by non-radioactive in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy

Acta Neuropathol. 1993;85(2):154-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00227762.


As part of continuing multidisciplinary studies on the neuropathogenesis of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), in situ hybridisation, immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy were used to detect measles virus nucleic acid, protein and nucleocapsids in brain perivascular infiltrates of three cases. Perivascular cuffing cells which contained measles virus nucleic acid and antigens were found in all cases. Infected cuffs occurred predominantly in areas of general parenchymal cell infection and in many of these a high proportion of the infiltrating cells were infected. Other cuffs in these areas were either uninfected or contained only a few infected cells. Occasional infected cells were also seen in cuffs in non-infected areas. In contrast, no specific immunocytochemical reactions or in situ hybridisation for measles virus was observed in brain tissue from a patient with herpes encephalitis. By electron microscopy viral nucleocapsid, consistent with measles virus, was found within the cytoplasm of plasma cells in the inflammatory cuffs in SSPE brain tissue. Possible explanations for our results are that infiltrates become infected on arrival in the CNS or alternatively, that the infected infiltrates reflect a generalised infection of the reticuloendothelial system. The frequent presence of uninfected cuffs favours the former explanation.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / microbiology
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Measles virus / genetics
  • Measles virus / isolation & purification*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / microbiology*