Viral infections have long been suspected to play a role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. In the present study, two different rodent models of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) were used to demonstrate the ability of murine gammaherpesvirus-68 (gammaHV-68) to exacerbate development of neurological symptoms. SJL mice received UV-inactivated gammaHV-68 or intranasalgammaHV-68, followed by immunization against proteolipid-protein peptide 139-151. Infected mice became moribund within 10 days post-immunization, whereas mice exposed to UV-inactivated gammaHV-68 recovered. In the second model, Lewis rats were exposed to UV-inactivated gammaHV-68 or to gammaHV-68, followed by passive transfer of encephalitogenic T lymphocytes specific for myelin basic protein. Consistently, infected rats had higher clinical scores, and this result was observed during acute or latent gammaHV-68 infection. It is unlikely that this gammaHV-68-induced exacerbation was due to significant viral replication within the central nervous system since nested PCR, viral plaque assays, and infectious-centers assays demonstrated no detectable virus in spinal cords or brains of infected rodents undergoing EAE. Taken together, these studies demonstrate increased clinical symptoms of EAE in rodents infected by a gammaherpesvirus that has a limited ability to invade the central nervous system.