An apparently novel neurological disease clinically characterized by shaking, tremors, seizures, staggering gait, and ataxia was first observed in farmed mink kits in Denmark in 2000 and subsequently in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland in 2001, and again in Denmark in 2002. Lymphoplasmacytic encephalomyelitis was found in the affected kits. The lesions were most severe in the brainstem and cerebellum and consisted of neuronal degeneration and necrosis, neuronophagia, focal and diffuse gliosis, perivascular cuffs formed by lymphocytes, plasma cells and macrophages, and segmental loss of Purkinje cells. Testing was conducted to determine the cause of the disease, including general virological investigations (virus culture, negative-staining electron microscopy, immunoelectron microscopy, polymerase chain reaction for herpesviruses, adenoviruses, pestiviruses, and coronaviruses), tests for specific viral diseases (canine distemper, Borna disease, Louping ill, West Nile virus infection, tick-borne encephalitis, Aleutian disease), tests for protozoa (Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum, Encephalitozoon cuniculi), bacteria (general culture, listeria, Clamydophila psittaci), and intracerebral inoculation of neonatal mice. The results of all these investigations were negative. One group of 3 mink kits inoculated intracerebrally with brain homogenate of affected mink developed clinical signs and histological lesions similar to those observed in naturally infected mink. Based on the histopathological features, it is postulated that the disease is caused by a yet unidentified virus.
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