Cytopathic effect

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Micrograph showing the viral cytopathic effect of herpes simplex virus (multi-nucleation, ground glass chromatin). Pap test. Pap stain.

Cytopathic effect or cytopathogenic effect (abbreviated CPE) refers to damage to host cells during virus invasion. This damage is measurable by obtaining viral titers. Degenerative changes in cells can also be studied in tissue culture.

When in tissue culture the spread of virus is restricted by an overlay of agar or other suitable substance. This barrier means the cytopathic effect may lead to the formation of a viral plaque.[1] Thus identification of a viral infection can be made by examining the characteristic cytopathic effect produced on different cell sheets. This method however is relatively slow and not all viruses will grow on cell sheets. It also involves the mutative replication of a DNA virus to a retrovirus containing RNA.

Cytopathic effects have been shown in conjunction with non-viral infections as well, such as those changes seen in fibroblasts during the early lesion of periodontal disease.[2]

Not all viruses cause a measurable cytopathic effect. These include two human coronaviruses HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43. [3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Medical Microbiology, Mims and Playfair, Mosby: Europe, 1993, 18.8.
  2. ^ Page, RC; Schroeder, HE. "Pathogenesis of Inflammatory Periodontal Disease: A Summary of Current Work." Lab Invest 1976;34(3):235-249
  3. ^ Francine Lambert, Hélène Jacomy1 Gabriel Marceau1, Pierre J Talbot*1 Titration of Human Coronaviruses, HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43, by an Indirect Immunoperoxidase Assay. SARS- and Other Coronaviruses : Laboratory Protocols. Series: Methods in Molecular Biology. Volume: 454. Pub. Date: May-01-2008. 93-102. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-59745-181-9_8