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The main reservoir of LCMV, which belongs to the arenaviruses, is the house mouse. Cells infected with LCMV express antigens and are recognised by cytotoxic T lymphocytes. This lymphocyte activity also makes the blood-brain barrier permeable resulting in meninges and neurons being damaged.
Infection of adult mice leads to choriomeningitis. In contrast, an intrauterine or neonatal infection generally causes an asymptomatic chronic carrier state in mice, with such animals forming immune complexes in the course of their lifetime that lead to glomerulonephritis. In guinea pigs and hamsters, LCMV infections often progress subclinically, however, conjunctivitis, blepharitis, respiratory symptoms, tremor, seizures and paralysis have been described. LCMV is transmitted diaplacentally and with all secretions and excretions.
In humans, LCMV rarely leads to choriomeningitis; the infection is usually asymptomatic or shows mild, flu-like symptoms. An infection in the second part of pregnancy can cause severe foetal damage.