Flavivirus infections are the most prevalent arthropod-borne infections world wide, often causing severe disease especially among children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. In the absence of effective antiviral treatment, prevention through vaccination would greatly reduce morbidity and mortality associated with flavivirus infections. Despite the success of the empirically developed vaccines against yellow fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and tick-borne encephalitis virus, there is an increasing need for a more rational design and development of safe and effective vaccines. Several bioinformatic tools are available to support such rational vaccine design. In doing so, several parameters have to be taken into account, such as safety for the target population, overall immunogenicity of the candidate vaccine, and efficacy and longevity of the immune responses triggered. Examples of how bio-informatics is applied to assist in the rational design and improvements of vaccines, particularly flavivirus vaccines, are presented and discussed.
We analyzed the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) transcriptome in 43 latently infected human trigeminal ganglia (TG) with postmortem intervals (PMIs) ranging from 3.7 to 24 h. Multiplex reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) revealed no VZV transcripts with a PMI of <9 h. Real-time PCR indicated a significant increase (P = 0.02) in VZV ORF63 transcript levels but not the virus DNA burden with longer PMI. Overall, both the breadth of the VZV transcriptome and the VZV ORF63 transcript levels in human cadaver TG increased with longer PMI.
We report an outbreak of cowpox virus among monkeys at a sanctuary for exotic animals. Serologic analysis and polymerase chain reaction were performed on blood and swab samples from different rodent species trapped at the sanctuary during the outbreak. Sequence comparison and serologic results showed that brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) transmitted the virus to monkeys.
Poxvirus; zoonosis; nonhuman primates; transmission; rodents; dispatch
Osterhaus and Haagmans discuss a new study in
PLoS Medicine that supports the use of the cynomolgus macaque model to study SARS pathogenesis and to test intervention strategies.
The classification of dengue virus-infected patients continues to be a challenge to researchers and clinicians in the field. The accuracy of the 1997 World Health Organization (WHO) dengue case definition has been debated for a decade, because the definition was very stringent, for instance, several researchers showed that apparently severe cases were misclassified as not severe. Therefore the WHO issued revised guidelines in 2009. Here, we retrospectively compared the performance of the WHO case definition of 2009 with the WHO case definition of 1997 in a detailed documented pediatric cohort from Indonesia. Intensive treatment intervention was used as an indicator of severity of disease. In line with our expectations, the 2009 WHO case classification proved to be significantly more specific, albeit less sensitive than the WHO case classification of 1997. We conclude that the revised classification is promising both from research and clinical perspectives, but validation of the classification criteria still needs to be addressed.
A novel human coronavirus (HCoV-EMC/2012) was isolated from a man with acute pneumonia and renal failure in June 2012. This report describes the complete genome sequence, genome organization, and expression strategy of HCoV-EMC/2012 and its relation with known coronaviruses. The genome contains 30,119 nucleotides and contains at least 10 predicted open reading frames, 9 of which are predicted to be expressed from a nested set of seven subgenomic mRNAs. Phylogenetic analysis of the replicase gene of coronaviruses with completely sequenced genomes showed that HCoV-EMC/2012 is most closely related to Tylonycteris bat coronavirus HKU4 (BtCoV-HKU4) and Pipistrellus bat coronavirus HKU5 (BtCoV-HKU5), which prototype two species in lineage C of the genus Betacoronavirus. In accordance with the guidelines of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and in view of the 75% and 77% amino acid sequence identity in 7 conserved replicase domains with BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5, respectively, we propose that HCoV-EMC/2012 prototypes a novel species in the genus Betacoronavirus. HCoV-EMC/2012 may be most closely related to a coronavirus detected in Pipistrellus pipistrellus in The Netherlands, but because only a short sequence from the most conserved part of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase-encoding region of the genome was reported for this bat virus, its genetic distance from HCoV-EMC remains uncertain. HCoV-EMC/2012 is the sixth coronavirus known to infect humans and the first human virus within betacoronavirus lineage C.
Coronaviruses are capable of infecting humans and many animal species. Most infections caused by human coronaviruses are relatively mild. However, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by SARS-CoV in 2002 to 2003 and the fatal infection of a human by HCoV-EMC/2012 in 2012 show that coronaviruses are able to cause severe, sometimes fatal disease in humans. We have determined the complete genome of HCoV-EMC/2012 using an unbiased virus discovery approach involving next-generation sequencing techniques, which enabled subsequent state-of-the-art bioinformatics, phylogenetics, and taxonomic analyses. By establishing its complete genome sequence, HCoV-EMC/2012 was characterized as a new genotype which is closely related to bat coronaviruses that are distant from SARS-CoV. We expect that this information will be vital to rapid advancement of both clinical and vital research on this emerging pathogen.
The route by which highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus spreads systemically, including the central nervous system (CNS), is largely unknown in mammals. Especially, the olfactory route, which could be a route of entry into the CNS, has not been studied in detail. Although the multibasic cleavage site (MBCS) in the hemagglutinin (HA) of HPAI H5N1 viruses is a major determinant of systemic spread in poultry, the association between the MBCS and systemic spread in mammals is less clear. Here we determined the virus distribution of HPAI H5N1 virus in ferrets in time and space—including along the olfactory route—and the role of the MBCS in systemic replication. Intranasal inoculation with wild-type H5N1 virus revealed extensive replication in the olfactory mucosa, from which it spread to the olfactory bulb and the rest of the CNS, including the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Virus spread to the heart, liver, pancreas, and colon was also detected, indicating hematogenous spread. Ferrets inoculated intranasally with H5N1 virus lacking an MBCS demonstrated respiratory tract infection only. In conclusion, HPAI H5N1 virus can spread systemically via two different routes, olfactory and hematogenous, in ferrets. This systemic spread was dependent on the presence of the MBCS in HA.
human; picobirnavirus; respiratory tract; PCR; viruses
Influenza virus tissue tropism defines the host cells and tissues that support viral replication and contributes to determining which regions of the respiratory tract are infected in humans. The location of influenza virus infection along the respiratory tract is a key determinant of virus pathogenicity and transmissibility, which are at the basis of influenza burdens in the human population. As the pathogenicity and transmissibility of influenza virus ultimately determine its reproductive fitness at the population level, strong selective pressures will shape influenza virus tissue tropisms that maximize fitness. At present, the relationships between influenza virus tissue tropism within hosts and reproductive fitness at the population level are poorly understood. The selective pressures and constraints that shape tissue tropism and thereby influence the location of influenza virus infection along the respiratory tract are not well characterized. We use mathematical models that link within-host infection dynamics in a spatially-structured human respiratory tract to between-host transmission dynamics, with the aim of characterizing the possible selective pressures on influenza virus tissue tropism. The results indicate that spatial heterogeneities in virus clearance, virus pathogenicity or both, resulting from the unique structure of the respiratory tract, may drive optimal receptor binding affinity–that maximizes influenza virus reproductive fitness at the population level–towards sialic acids with α2,6 linkage to galactose. The expanding cell pool deeper down the respiratory tract, in association with lower clearance rates, may result in optimal infectivity rates–that likewise maximize influenza virus reproductive fitness at the population level–to exhibit a decreasing trend towards deeper regions of the respiratory tract. Lastly, pre-existing immunity may drive influenza virus tissue tropism towards upper regions of the respiratory tract. The proposed framework provides a new template for the cross-scale study of influenza virus evolutionary and epidemiological dynamics in humans.
A thorough understanding of the diversity of viruses in wildlife provides epidemiological baseline information about potential pathogens. Metagenomic analysis of the enteric viral flora revealed a new anellovirus and bocavirus species in pine martens and a new circovirus-like virus and geminivirus-related DNA virus in European badgers. In addition, sequences with homology to viruses from the families Paramyxo- and Picornaviridae were detected.
hepatitis E virus; viruses; ferrets; PCR; pyrosequencing; the Netherlands
Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N1 can infect mammals via the intestine; this is unusual since influenza viruses typically infect mammals via the respiratory tract. The dissemination of HPAIV H5N1 following intestinal entry and associated pathogenesis are largely unknown. To assess the route of spread of HPAIV H5N1 to other organs and to determine its associated pathogenesis, we inoculated infected chicken liver homogenate directly into the intestine of cats by use of enteric-coated capsules. Intestinal inoculation of HPAIV H5N1 resulted in fatal systemic disease. The spread of HPAIV H5N1 from the lumen of the intestine to other organs took place via the blood and lymphatic vascular systems but not via neuronal transmission. Remarkably, the systemic spread of the virus via the vascular system was associated with massive infection of endothelial and lymphendothelial cells, resulting in widespread hemorrhages. This is unique for influenza in mammals and resembles the pathogenesis of HPAIV infection in terrestrial poultry. It contrasts with the pathogenesis of systemic disease from the same virus following entry via the respiratory tract, where lesions are characterized mainly by necrosis and inflammation and are associated with the presence of influenza virus antigen in parenchymal, not endothelial cells. The marked endotheliotropism of the virus following intestinal inoculation indicates that the pathogenesis of systemic influenza virus infection in mammals may differ according to the portal of entry.
To identify unknown human viruses in the enteric tract, we examined 105 stool specimens from patients with diarrhea in Bangladesh. A novel calicivirus was identified in a sample from 1 patient and subsequently found in samples from 5 other patients. Phylogenetic analyses classified this virus within the proposed genus Recovirus.
human; calicivirus; metagenomics; Recovirus; random amplification; next-generation sequencing; Bangladesh; novel; viruses; recoviruses; Caliciviridae
A multibasic cleavage site (MBCS) in the haemagglutinin (HA) protein of influenza A virus is a key determinant of pathogenicity in chickens, and distinguishes highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses from low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAI). An MBCS has only been detected in viruses of the H5 and H7 subtypes. Here we investigated the phenotype of a human H3N2 virus with an MBCS in HA. Insertion of an MBCS in the H3N2 virus resulted in cleavage of HA and efficient replication in Madin–Darby canine kidney cells in the absence of exogenous trypsin in vitro, similar to HPAI H5N1 virus. However, studies in ferrets demonstrated that insertion of the MBCS into HA did not result in increased virus shedding, cellular host range, systemic replication or pathogenicity, as compared with wild-type virus. This study indicates that acquisition of an MBCS alone is insufficient to increase pathogenicity of a prototypical seasonal human H3N2 virus.
The paramyxovirus F protein promotes fusion of the viral and cell membranes for virus entry, as well as cell-cell fusion for syncytium formation. Most paramyxovirus F proteins are triggered at neutral pH to initiate membrane fusion. Previous studies, however, demonstrated that human metapneumovirus (hMPV) F proteins are triggered at neutral or acidic pH in transfected cells, depending on the strain origin of the F sequences (S. Herfst et al., J. Virol. 82:8891–8895, 2008). We now report an extensive mutational analysis which identifies four variable residues (294, 296, 396, and 404) as the main determinants of the different syncytial phenotypes found among hMPV F proteins. These residues lie near two conserved histidines (H368 and H435) in a three-dimensional (3D) model of the pretriggered hMPV F trimer. Mutagenesis of H368 and H435 indicates that protonation of these histidines (particularly His435) is a key event to destabilize the hMPV F proteins that require low pH for cell-cell fusion. The syncytial phenotypes were reproduced in cells infected with the corresponding hMPV strains. However, the low-pH dependency for syncytium formation could not be related with a virus entry pathway dependent on an acidic environment. It is postulated that low pH may be acting for some hMPV strains as certain destabilizing mutations found in unusual strains of other paramyxoviruses. In any case, the results presented here and those reported by Schowalter et al. (J. Virol. 83:1511–1522, 2009) highlight the relevance of certain residues in the linker region and domain II of the pretriggered hMPV F protein for the process of membrane fusion.
A fatal human case of Duvenhage virus (DUVV) infection in a Dutch traveller who had returned from Kenya was reported in 2007. She exhibited classical symptoms of rabies encephalitis with distinct pathological findings. In the present study we describe the isolation and characterization of DUVV in vitro and its passage in BALB/c mice. The virus proved to be neuroinvasive in both juvenile and adult mice, resulting in about 50% lethality upon peripheral infection. Clinical signs in infected mice were those of classical rabies. However, the distribution of viral antigen expression in the brain differed from that of classical rabies virus infection and neither inclusion bodies nor neuronal necrosis were observed. This is the first study to describe the in vitro and in vivo isolation and characterization of DUVV.
Lyssaviruses have been known for centuries to cause lethal encephalitis in animals and humans, representing a serious public health problem especially in developing countries. Little is known about the way that lyssaviruses in general, and Duvenhage virus in particular cause disease. Studies of pathogenesis have been hampered by the fact that the virus has not yet been propagated and characterized extensively. In this paper, we describe the characterization of Duvenhage virus in vitro. Further, we characterized the virus in BALB/c mice. We compared Duvenhage virus with a wild type rabies virus (silver-haired bat rabies virus) and we found that while in vitro the differences of these two viruses were not significant, the in vivo characteristics of these two viruses differed significantly. Histological analyses of infected mouse brains suggest that differences in virulence may be associated with difference in tropism. Elucidating the differences in pathogenesis between different lyssaviruses might help us in the design of novel treatment protocols.
Infection with seasonal influenza A viruses induces immunity to potentially pandemic influenza A viruses of other subtypes (heterosubtypic immunity). We recently demonstrated that vaccination against seasonal influenza prevented the induction of heterosubtypic immunity against influenza A/H5N1 virus induced by infection with seasonal influenza in animal models, which correlated with the absence of virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses. Annual vaccination of all healthy children against influenza has been recommended, but the impact of vaccination on the development of the virus-specific CD8+ T cell immunity in children is currently unknown. Here we compared the virus-specific CD8+ T cell immunity in children vaccinated annually with that in unvaccinated children. In the present study, we compared influenza A virus-specific cellular and humoral responses of unvaccinated healthy control children with those of children with cystic fibrosis (CF) who were vaccinated annually. Similar virus-specific CD4+ T cell and antibody responses were observed, while an age-dependent increase of the virus-specific CD8+ T cell response that was absent in vaccinated CF children was observed in unvaccinated healthy control children. Our results indicate that annual influenza vaccination is effective against seasonal influenza but hampers the development of virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses. The consequences of these findings are discussed in the light of the development of protective immunity to seasonal and future pandemic influenza viruses.
We screened 1,200 living heart, lung, liver, and kidney transplant recipients for hepatitis E virus infection by reverse transcription PCR. In 12 (1%) patients, hepatitis E virus infection was identified; in 11 patients, chronic infection developed. This immunocompromised population is at risk for hepatitis E virus infection.
hepatitis E; hepatitis E virus; viruses; solid organ transplant; the Netherlands; lung transplant; kidney transplant; heart transplant; liver transplant; infection
Family-wide molecular diagnostic assays are valuable tools for initial identification of viruses during outbreaks and to limit costs of surveillance studies. Recent discoveries of paramyxoviruses have called for such assay that is able to detect all known and unknown paramyxoviruses in one round of PCR amplification. We have developed a RT-PCR assay consisting of a single degenerate primer set, able to detect all members of the Paramyxoviridae family including all virus genera within the subfamilies Paramyxovirinae and Pneumovirinae. Primers anneal to domain III of the polymerase gene, with the 3′ end of the reverse primer annealing to the conserved motif GDNQ, which is proposed to be the active site for nucleotide polymerization. The assay was fully optimized and was shown to indeed detect all available paramyxoviruses tested. Clinical specimens from hospitalized patients that tested positive for known paramyxoviruses in conventional assays were also detected with the novel family-wide test. A high-throughput fluorescence-based RT-PCR version of the assay was developed for screening large numbers of specimens. A large number of samples collected from wild birds was tested, resulting in the detection of avian paramyxoviruses type 1 in both barnacle and white-fronted geese, and type 8 in barnacle geese. Avian metapneumovirus type C was found for the first time in Europe in mallards, greylag geese and common gulls. The single round family-wide RT-PCR assay described here is a useful tool for the detection of known and unknown paramyxoviruses, and screening of large sample collections from humans and animals.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) hepatitis is a rare and potential life-threatening disease. The diagnosis of HSV hepatitis is hampered by its indifferent clinical presentation, which necessitates confirmatory laboratory data to identify HSV in the affected liver. However, liver biopsies are often contraindicated in the context of coagulopathy, are prone to sampling errors and have low sensitivity in mild HSV hepatitis cases. There is an unmet need for less-invasive diagnostic tools.
The diagnostic and therapeutic value of HSV DNA load and liver enzyme level kinetics was determined in five HSV hepatitis patients and twenty disease controls with HSV-DNAemia without hepatitis.
At time of hospitalization, HSV hepatitis patients had a higher median (± interquartile range) HSV DNA load (6.0×106 ± 1.2×109) compared to disease controls (171 ± 2,845). Viral DNA load correlated with liver transaminase levels and disease severity. Antiviral treatment led to rapid decline of HSV DNA load and improvement of liver function of HSV hepatitis patients.
The data advocate the prompt and consecutive quantification of the HSV DNA load and liver enzyme levels in plasma of patients suspected of HSV hepatitis as well as those under antiviral treatment.
Acute Liver Failure; Herpes simplex virus; Plasma Viral Load; Diagnosis; Follow-up
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes varicella (chickenpox), becomes latent in ganglia along the entire neuraxis, and may reactivate to cause herpes zoster (shingles). VZV may infect ganglia via retrograde axonal transport from infected skin or through hematogenous spread. Simian varicella virus (SVV) infection of rhesus macaques provides a useful model system to study the pathogenesis of human VZV infection. To dissect the virus and host immune factors during acute SVV infection, we analyzed four SVV-seronegative Chinese rhesus macaques infected intratracheally with cell-associated 5 × 103 plaque-forming units (pfu) of SVV-expressing green fluorescent protein (n = 2) or 5 × 104 pfu of wild-type SVV (n = 2). All monkeys developed viremia and SVV-specific adaptive B- and T-cell immune responses, but none developed skin rash. At necropsy 21 days postinfection, SVV DNA was found in ganglia along the entire neuraxis and in viscera, and SVV RNA was found in ganglia, but not in viscera. The amount of SVV inoculum was associated with the extent of viremia and the immune response to virus. Our findings demonstrate that acute SVV infection of Chinese rhesus macaques leads to ganglionic infection by the hematogenous route and the induction of a virus-specific adaptive memory response in the absence of skin rash.
Simian varicella virus; Rhesus macaques; Adaptive immune response; Viremia; Ganglia; Latency
Sequence-independent amplification and specific reverse transcription PCRs identified genogroup I and II picobirnaviruses in respiratory tracts of pigs. These data expand knowledge of picobirnavirus diversity and tropism. Genetic relationships between porcine respiratory and human enteric picobirnaviruses suggest cross-species transmission of picobirnaviruses between pigs and humans.
pigs; viruses; picobirnavirus; porcine picobirnavirus; genogroup I; genogroup II; respiratory tract; phylogeny; random amplification; slaughterhouses; zoonoses; Hong Kong; Sri Lanka
Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), caused by influenza A virus H5N1 and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), supposedly depend on activation of the oxidative-stress machinery that is coupled with innate immunity, resulting in a strong proinflammatory host response. Inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin 1β (IL-1β), IL-8, and IL-6, play a major role in mediating and amplifying ALI/ARDS by stimulating chemotaxis and activation of neutrophils. To obtain further insight into the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-associated ALI, we compared SARS-CoV infections in two different nonhuman primate species, cynomolgus macaques and African green monkeys. Viral titers in the upper and lower respiratory tract were not significantly different in SARS-CoV-infected macaques and African green monkeys. Inflammatory cytokines that play a major role in mediating and amplifying ALI/ARDS or have neutrophil chemoattractant activity, such as IL-6, IL-8, CXCL1, and CXCL2, were, however, induced only in macaques. In contrast, other proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, including osteopontin and CCL3, were upregulated in the lungs of African green monkeys to a significantly greater extent than in macaques. Because African green monkeys developed more severe ALI than macaques, with hyaline membrane formation, some of these differentially expressed proinflammatory genes may be critically involved in development of the observed pathological changes. Induction of distinct proinflammatory genes after SARS-CoV infection in different nonhuman primate species needs to be taken into account when analyzing outcomes of intervention strategies in these species.
There is considerable interest in the development of broadly protective influenza vaccines because of the continuous emergence of antigenic drift variants of seasonal influenza viruses and the threat posed by the emergence of antigenically distinct pandemic influenza viruses. It has been recognized more than three decades ago that influenza A virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes recognize epitopes located in the relatively conserved proteins like the nucleoprotein and that they cross-react with various subtypes of influenza A viruses. This implies that these CD8+ T lymphocytes may contribute to protective heterosubtypic immunity induced by antecedent influenza A virus infections. In the present paper, we review the evidence for the role of virus-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes in protective immunity against influenza virus infections and discuss vaccination strategies that aim at the induction of cross-reactive virus-specific T-cell responses.
Serum antibodies induced by seasonal influenza or seasonal influenza vaccination exhibit limited or no cross-reactivity against the 2009 pandemic swine-origin influenza virus of the H1N1 subtype (pH1N1). Ferrets immunized once or twice with MF59-adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine exhibited significantly reduced lung virus titers but no substantial clinical protection against pH1N1-associated disease. However, priming with MF59-adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine significantly increased the efficacy of a pandemic MF59-adjuvanted influenza vaccine against pH1N1 challenge. Elucidating the mechanism involved in this priming principle will contribute to our understanding of vaccine- and infection-induced correlates of protection. Furthermore, a practical consequence of these findings is that during an emerging pandemic, the implementation of a priming strategy with an available adjuvanted seasonal vaccine to precede the eventual pandemic vaccination campaign may be useful and life-saving.