Germ-free piglets were infected intranasally with porcine cytomegalovirus (PCMV) at 1 day (group A) or 3 weeks of age (group B). Viraemia and virus excretion by the nasal, pharyngeal and conjunctival routes was studied up to the time of death or to 12 weeks. Virus was also sought in tissues at death or at slaughter, as well as in a few urine samples.
Viraemia was detected in group A between days 5 and 19 after infection and in group B between days 14 and 16 inclusive. The chief route of virus excretion was the nasal mucosa, followed by the pharynx and conjunctiva; the maximal duration of excretion by these routes was 32, 25 and 14 days for pigs of group A and 9, 7 and 4 days for group B. The quantity of virus was also greater in the former group, of which 3 died of generalized PCMV infection.
A viruria was demonstrated in 2 animals.
Antibody detectable in indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) tests appeared towards the end of the third week, reaching maximal titres at 5 to 7 weeks after infection. The mean peak titre of antibody in group B was lower than in group A.
Corticosteroid treatment at days 56–62 after infection resulted in some recrudescence of virus excretion, accompanied in group B by about a twofold increase in IIF antibody. PCMV was isolated in cultures of lung macrophages from 4 of 7 animals killed at about 12 weeks after inoculation.