The proximal metaphyses of the humerus of weanling gnotobiotic dogs experimentally infected with canine distemper virus (CDV) were investigated histologically and immunocytochemically between 4 and 41 days after infection. Viral antigen was demonstrated in hematopoietic marrow and bone cells at postinfection day (PID) 5 and PID 7, respectively. Between PID 8 and 27, CDV antigen was abundantly present in marrow cells, osteoclasts, and osteoblasts and less frequently in osteocytes. Immunopositive cells in both osseous tissues and bone marrow declined between PID 29 and PID 36 and were absent by PID 41. Chondrocytes of the growth plate were negative for viral antigen throughout the observation period. In bone, viral antigen was more frequently observed in bone cells of the primary spongiosa than in the secondary spongiosa. There was a strong correlation between occurrence of CDV antigen and osseous changes. Associated metaphyseal bone lesions were mild and most prominent between PID 8 and PID 32. Lesions consisted of necrosis of osteoclasts, which was associated with subsequent persistence of the primary spongiosa (growth retardation lattice). Atrophy and necrosis of osteoblasts and marrow cells were also noted. Infection of metaphyseal bone cells appears to be common in young dogs with experimental systemic distemper. Bone cell infection is preceded by infection of marrow cells, and infected bone cells may experience degeneration and necrosis. This subtle viral effect may result in defects in bone modeling in CDV-infected dogs.
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