Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a highly prevalent herpesvirus that can cause severe disease in immunocompromised individuals and immunologically immature fetuses and newborns. Most infected newborns are able to resolve the infection without developing sequelae. However, in severe cases, congenital HCMV infection can result in life-threatening pathologies and permanent damage of organ systems that possess a low regenerative capacity. Despite the severity of the problem, HCMV infection of the central nervous system (CNS) remains inadequately characterized to date. Cytomegaloviruses (CMVs) show strict species specificity, limiting the use of HCMV in experimental animals. Infection following intraperitoneal administration of mouse cytomegalovirus (MCMV) into newborn mice efficiently recapitulates many aspects of congenital HCMV infection in CNS. Upon entering the CNS, CMV targets all resident brain cells, consequently leading to the development of widespread histopathology and inflammation. Effector functions from both resident cells and infiltrating immune cells efficiently resolve acute MCMV infection in the CNS. However, host-mediated inflammatory factors can also mediate the development of immunopathologies during CMV infection of the brain. Here, we provide an overview of the cytomegalovirus infection in the brain, local immune response to infection, and mechanisms leading to CNS sequelae.
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