Twelve specific pathogen free cats were used to investigate the role of calicivirus in causing lameness. These were divided into two groups each of six cats; one group of cats had previously been vaccinated, the other had not. Three cats in each group were given live vaccine virus (F9 related) by the subcutaneous route and two in each group were challenged intranasally with field virus (A4), either four or seven days before euthanasia. The other two cats were controls. Virus was isolated from the oropharynx of five cats and the conjunctiva of a single cat. Four of these cats had been given the field virus and two the vaccine strain; the latter two cats had been previously immunised and had high circulating neutralising antibodies to calicivirus. No virus was isolated from the joints of any cat but immunofluorescence examination revealed viral antigens within the synovial macrophages of 14 joints from five cats, three having been given the field virus and two the vaccine virus seven days before euthanasia. Immunofluorescence also demonstrated the presence of immunoglobulin and complement within synovial macrophages suggesting that the virus was in the form of an immune complex. No lameness was reported in any cat and the synovial histological changes were minimal.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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