Bovine papillomavirus type 2 (BPV-2) infection has been associated with urinary bladder tumours in adult cattle grazing on bracken fern-infested land. In this study, we investigated the simultaneous presence of BPV-2 in whole blood and urinary bladder tumours of adult cattle in an attempt to better understand the biological role of circulating BPV-2. Peripheral blood samples were collected from 78 cattle clinically suffering from a severe chronic enzootic haematuria. Circulating BPV-2 DNA was detected in 61 of them and in two blood samples from healthy cows. Fifty of the affected animals were slaughtered at public slaughterhouses and neoplastic proliferations in the urinary bladder were detected in all of them. BPV-2 DNA was amplified and sequenced in 78% of urinary bladder tumour samples and in 38.9% of normal samples as a control. Circulating episomal BPV-2 DNA was detected in 78.2% of the blood samples. Simultaneous presence of BPV-2 DNA in neoplastic bladder and blood samples was detected in 37 animals. Specific viral E5 mRNA and E5 oncoprotein were also detected in blood by RT-PCR and Western blot/ immunocytochemistry, respectively. It is likely that BPV-2 can persist and be maintained in an active status in the bloodstream, in particular in the lymphocytes, as a reservoir of viral infection that, in the presence of co-carcinogens, may cause the development of urinary bladder tumours.
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