The usefulness of two nucleic acid detection systems in suspected cases of spontaneous canine herpesvirus (CHV) infection in puppies was evaluated. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues from seven 1-3-week-old naturally infected puppies with lesions characteristic of CHV infection were investigated in a retrospective study. Nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and nonradioactive in situ hybridization (ISH) were used to detect nucleotide sequences of the CHV thymidine kinase (TK) gene. According to the original necropsy reports, CHV was isolated in four of the seven puppies using primary canine lung and/or kidney cells. In all seven puppies, gross and histologic lesions consisted of disseminated focal necroses and hemorrhages predominantly in kidneys, lung, liver, and spleen. In addition, few small amphophilic intranuclear inclusion bodies were detected by light microscopy mainly in epithelial cells of kidney, lung, and liver. ISH was performed with a 111-base-pair (bp) digoxigenin-labeled double-stranded DNA probe. Viral DNA was detected in the nuclei of cells near and within lesions. Various cell types, including bronchiolar and alveolar epithelial cells, hepatocytes, renal tubular epithelial cells, neurons, fibrocytes, cardiac myocytes, and endothelial cells, were positive for viral DNA. PCR amplification products of the expected length of 168 bp containing the expected cleavage site for the restriction enzyme EcoRI, derived from paraffin blocks containing lung, kidney, and liver tissues, were detected in all seven puppies. The specificity of the obtained amplicon was further confirmed by Southern blot analysis. ISH and PCR are both useful methods for diagnosing CHV infection in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues and are highly specific and sensitive methods for further investigations of the pathogenesis of CHV-induced lesions.
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