Inhalation anesthetic-induced neuroinvasion by an attenuated strain of West Nile virus in mice

Yeshayahu Katz, Shlomo Lustig, Izhar Ben-Shlomo, David Kobiler, David Ben-Nathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There are contradictory reports regarding the effects of inhalation anesthetics on the immune system. Measurable immune responses have been studied in vitro, but little is known about the in vivo effects in the intact organism. We used an attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, nonlethal strain of the encephalitic West Nile virus, termed WN-25, which can become lethal in combination with environmental stressors, to study possible modulatory immune effects of inhalation anesthetics in mice. Both single short-term exposure and repeated exposure to halothane and nitrous oxide were studied. Exposure to 30% CO2 served as a positive control. Mortality, brain invasion, spleen weight, and antiviral antibodies served as the experimental endpoints. Halothane and nitrous oxide led to viral brain invasion, increased mortality, and suppressed immune response in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. Repeated exposures had a cumulative effect. Assessment of the stability of the viral attenuation did not demonstrate any alteration in the character of the virus, suggesting an increased access to the brain by inhalation anesthetics that led to the fatal encephalitis. These findings may be of special concern to populations at risk, such as operating room staff and patients undergoing general anesthesia in endemic areas of encephalitic virus species, in which subclinical infection may develop into an overt disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-580
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Encephalitis virus
  • Halothane
  • Immune system
  • Nitrous oxide


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