The ‘ceiling temperature’ of a pox virus has been defined as the maximum temperature (to the nearest 0·5° C.) of incubation at and below which that virus will grow and produce pocks on the chorioallantois of 12-day-old chick embryos, and above which no pocks appear.
Ceiling temperatures have been estimated for: alastrim (2 strains), 37·5° C.; variola major (2 strains), 3·8° C.; ectromelia (3 strains) and monkey pox (1 strain), 39°C.; cowpox (2 strains), 40°C. Five strains of vaccinia and two of rabbit pox were all capable of pock formation at 40·5° C. Above this temperature difficulty was encountered because many embryos died. But the ceiling temperature for two strains of vaccinia and one strain of rabbit pox was probably 41° C. The Utrecht strain of rabbit pox produced some lesions at 41·5° C.—the highest temperature used.
The ceiling temperatures of the viruses used were not correlated with their thermal stabilities at 55°C. in vitro. Thus vaccinia strain, Lederle-7 N, had a high ceiling temperature and a low thermal stability, while variola major had a low ceiling temperature and a high thermal stability. For this reason ceiling temperatures and thermal stability are regarded as distinct characters.
In experiments with twelve of the seventeen viruses of which the ceiling temperatures had been determined, the virulence for the chick embryo was then measured. It was found that, in general, the higher the ceiling temperature of a virus the greater was its virulence for the chick embryo.
The presentation of these results is followed by a brief discussion of their significance and potential use.