Corneal oedema and stromal disease, induced in rabbits by intrastromal injection of herpes simplex virus, type 1, strain RE (HSV-1, RE), reached a peak of 12-15 days after infection. Corneal oedema as measured by ultrasonic pachymetry, and stromal disease as measured by a subjective scoring system, were closely related for 30 days after infection. Morphometric analysis of wide field specular micrographs showed that no immediate endothelial cell damage occurred in either control or HSV-1 infected corneas. Alizarin red S staining of corneas taken during the period of most severe oedema indicated no significant endothelial cell loss; however, visual inspection indicated numerous staining abnormalities. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy provided evidence of an intact endothelial layer possessing integrated infiltrating cells. Virus antigen could not be detected on endothelial cells by immunoperoxidase staining at any time during development of corneal oedema. The results indicate that corneal oedema associated with HSV-1 induced disease can occur in the absence of detectable virus replication and cytolysis of corneal endothelial cells.
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