The neuropathic itch caused by pseudorabies virus

Kathlyn Laval, Lynn W. Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is an alphaherpesvirus related to varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). PRV is the causative agent of Aujeskzy’s disease in swine. PRV infects mucosal epithelium and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) of its host where it can establish a quiescent, latent infection. While the natural host of PRV is the swine, a broad spectrum of mammals, including rodents, cats, dogs, and cattle can be infected. Since the nineteenth century, PRV infection is known to cause a severe acute neuropathy, the so called “mad itch” in non-natural hosts, but surprisingly not in swine. In the past, most scientific efforts have been directed to eradicating PRV from pig farms by the use of effective marker vaccines, but little attention has been given to the processes leading to the mad itch. The main objective of this review is to provide state-of-the-art information on the mechanisms governing PRV-induced neuropathic itch in non-natural hosts. We highlight similarities and key differences in the pathogenesis of PRV infections between non-natural hosts and pigs that might explain their distinctive clinical outcomes. Current knowledge on the neurobiology and possible explanations for the unstoppable itch experienced by PRV-infected animals is also reviewed. We summarize recent findings concerning PRV-induced neuroinflammatory responses in mice and address the relevance of this animal model to study other alphaherpesvirus-induced neuropathies, such as those observed for VZV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number254
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Allergy


  • Immunopathogenesis
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Neuropathic itch
  • Neuropathogenesis
  • Non-natural hosts
  • Pseudorabies virus
  • Swine


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