Arch Virol (1999) 144: 491–501
Characterization of orthopoxviruses isolated
from man and animals in Germany
, C. Schay
, H. Mahnel
, and M. Pfeffer
Institute for Microbiology, Federal Armed Forces Medical Academy,
Institute for Medical Microbiology, Infectious and Epidemic Diseases,
Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany
Accepted October 7, 1998
Summary. Fourteen orthopoxvirus strains isolated from humans, cats, a dog,
a cow, and an elephant in Germany were characterized. All were classiﬁed as
cowpox virus based on haemorrhagic lesions induced on the chorioallantoic
membrane of chicken eggs and reactivity of a 160 kDa protein with anti-A-type
inclusion protein hyperimmun serum in a Western blot. More detailed compari-
son of the isolates by restriction endonuclease mapping using HindIII and XhoI
demonstrated a close relationship between all isolates and conﬁrmed them as
cowpox viruses. However, some minor differences between the isolates were
detected which proved to be of epidemiological value. One group consisting of
ﬁve closely related isolates contained a unique 4.0 kb HindIII fragment. In a
Southern blot this fragment failed to hybridize with other cowpox virus isolates
including the reference strain.
The genus Orthopoxvirus comprises morphologically and antigenically closely
related viruses that includes several pathogens of human and animal importance.
Cowpox caused by infection with cowpox virus (CPXV) has been recognized in
Europe for several hundred years as a disease of cows that is transmissible to
man producing a mild eruptive disease of the cow’s teats or the milker’s hands.
Human infections were sporadic with lesions resembling a primary vaccination
reaction: a red papule progresses through vesiculation and pustulation to form
an ulcer, which heals with a scar within 3 weeks . Although infections are
usually self-limiting, they can generalize  and, indeed, have proved fatal in
an immunosuppressed patient .