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Concept: Flaviviridae


Previous experimental studies have demonstrated that a number of mosquito-borne flavivirus pathogens are vertically transmitted in their insect vectors, providing a mechanism for these arboviruses to persist during adverse climatic conditions or in the absence of a susceptible vertebrate host. In this study, designed to test whether Zika virus (ZIKV) could be vertically transmitted, female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus were injected with ZIKV, and their F1 adult progeny were tested for ZIKV infection. Of 69 Ae. aegypti pools, six consisted of a total of 1,738 F1 adults, yielded ZIKV upon culture, giving a minimum filial infection rate of 1:290. In contrast, none of 803 F1 Ae. albopictus adults (32 pools) yielded ZIKV. The MFIR for Ae. aegypti was comparable to MFIRs reported for other flaviviruses in mosquitoes, including dengue, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, West Nile, and St. Louis encephalitis viruses. The results suggest that vertical transmission may provide a potential mechanism for the virus to survive during adverse conditions.

Concepts: Mosquito, Yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Dengue fever, Encephalitis, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Although the outcome of flavivirus infection can vary from asymptomatic to lethal, environmental factors modulating disease severity are poorly defined. Here, we observed increased susceptibility of mice to severe West Nile (WNV), Dengue, and Zika virus infections after treatment with oral antibiotics (Abx) that depleted the gut microbiota. Abx treatment impaired the development of optimal T cell responses, with decreased levels of WNV-specific CD8+T cells associated with increased infection and immunopathology. Abx treatments that resulted in enhanced WNV susceptibility generated changes in the overall structure of the gut bacterial community and in the abundance of specific bacterial taxa. As little as 3 days of treatment with ampicillin was sufficient to alter host immunity and WNV outcome. Our results identify oral Abx therapy as a potential environmental determinant of systemic viral disease, and they raise the possibility that perturbation of the gut microbiota may have deleterious consequences for subsequent flavivirus infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Virus, Antibiotic, Penicillin, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae


BACKGROUND: The genus Flavivirus includes several pathogenic agents that cause severe illness in humans. Re-emergence of West Nile virus in Europe and continuous spread of certain flaviviruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis viruses represent a global danger to public health. Therefore, a rapid and accurate molecular method is required for diagnostics and epidemiological surveillance of flaviviruses. METHODS: A Pan-Flavi quantitative RT-PCR assay using a Locked-Nucleic Acid probe targeting the flavivirus NS5 gene was developed and optimized to detect a wide range of flaviviruses simultaneously. The specificity and sensitivity of the Pan-Flavi assay were tested using RNA of different flaviviruses and non-flaviviruses. Furthermore, the assay was compared directly to flavivirus species-specific assays for the ability to detect flaviviruses sensitively. RESULTS: Two degenerate primers and one Locked-Nucleic Acids probe were designed to amplify most of the flaviviruses. To increase the specificity and fluorescence signal of the Pan-Flavi assay for detection of yellow fever virus and dengue virus 4, additional primers and probes were included. Viral RNA of thirty different flaviviruses was detected, verifying the broad range specificity. The testing of this assay was successful, using standard plasmid and RNA dilutions of yellow fever virus vaccine strain, dengue virus 1 and tick-borne encephalitis virus, with a sensitivity limit of 10–100 genome copies/reaction. Also comparatively good results were achieved for detecting different flaviviruses by the Pan-Flavi assay when compared to the flavivirus species-specific assays. CONCLUSION: The assay is rapid, broad-range flavivirus-specific and highly sensitive making it a valuable tool for rapid detection of flaviviruses in livestock samples, epidemiological studies or as useful complement to single flavivirus-specific assays for clinical diagnosis.

Concepts: Malaria, Ribavirin, Viral diseases, Encephalitis, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


The outbreak of West Nile virus (WNV) in 1999 in the USA, and its continued spread throughout the Americas, parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, underscored the need for WNV antiviral development. Here, we review the current status of WNV drug discovery. A number of approaches have been used to search for inhibitors of WNV, including viral infection-based screening, enzyme-based screening, structure-based virtual screening, structure-based rationale design, and antibody-based therapy. These efforts have yielded inhibitors of viral or cellular factors that are critical for viral replication. For small molecule inhibitors, no promising preclinical candidate has been developed; most of the inhibitors could not even be advanced to the stage of hit-to-lead optimization due to their poor drug-like properties. However, several inhibitors developed for related members of the family Flaviviridae, such as dengue virus and hepatitis C virus, exhibited cross-inhibition of WNV, suggesting the possibility to re-purpose these antivirals for WNV treatment. Most promisingly, therapeutic antibodies have shown excellent efficacy in mouse model; one of such antibodies has been advanced into clinical trial. The knowledge accumulated during the past fifteen years has provided better rationale for the ongoing WNV and other flavivirus antiviral development.

Concepts: Microbiology, Middle East, Ribavirin, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Zika virus has emerged as a severe health threat with a rapidly expanding range. The IFITM family of restriction factors inhibits the replication of a broad range of viruses, including the closely related flaviruses West Nile virus and dengue virus. Here, we show that IFITM1 and IFITM3 inhibit Zika virus infection early in the viral life cycle. Moreover, IFITM3 can prevent Zika-virus-induced cell death. These results suggest that strategies to boost the actions and/or levels of the IFITMs might be useful for inhibiting a broad range of emerging viruses.

Concepts: Microbiology, Virus, Ribavirin, Viruses, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Zika virus is a single-stranded RNA virus in the genus Flavivirus and is closely related to dengue, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever viruses (1,2). Among flaviviruses, Zika and dengue virus share similar symptoms of infection, transmission cycles, and geographic distribution. Diagnostic testing for Zika virus infection can be accomplished using both molecular and serologic methods. For persons with suspected Zika virus disease, a positive real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) result confirms Zika virus infection, but a negative rRT-PCR result does not exclude infection (3-7). In these cases, immunoglobulin (Ig) M and neutralizing antibody testing can identify additional recent Zika virus infections (6,7). However, Zika virus antibody test results can be difficult to interpret because of cross-reactivity with other flaviviruses, which can preclude identification of the specific infecting virus, especially when the person previously was infected with or vaccinated against a related flavivirus (8). This is important because the results of Zika and dengue virus testing will guide clinical management. Pregnant women with laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection should be evaluated and managed for possible adverse pregnancy outcomes and be reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry or the Puerto Rico Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System for clinical follow-up (9,10). All patients with clinically suspected dengue should have proper management to reduce the risk for hemorrhage and shock (11). If serologic testing indicates recent flavivirus infection that could be caused by either Zika or dengue virus, patients should be clinically managed for both infections because they might have been infected with either virus.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Virus, RNA, Infection, Fever, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


The recent rapid spread of Zika virus and its unexpected linkage to birth defects and an autoimmune-neurological syndrome has generated worldwide concern. Zika virus is a flavivirus like dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. We present the 3.8Å resolution structure of mature Zika virus determined by cryo-electron microscopy. The structure of Zika virus is similar to other known flavivirus structures except for the ~10 amino acids that surround the Asn154 glycosylation site found in each of the 180 envelope glycoproteins that make up the icosahedral shell. The carbohydrate moiety associated with this residue, recognizable in the cryo-EM electron density, may function as an attachment site of the virus to host cells. This region varies not only among Zika virus strains but also in other flaviviruses and suggests that changes in this region influence virus transmission and disease.

Concepts: Protein, Virus, Ribavirin, Viruses, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Zika virus (ZIKV) is implicated in fetal stillbirth, microcephaly, intracranial calcifications, and ocular anomalies following vertical transmission from infected mothers. In adults, infection may trigger autoimmune inflammatory polyneuropathy. Transmission most commonly follows the bite of infectedAedesmosquitoes but may also occur through sexual intercourse or receipt of blood products. Definitive diagnosis through detection of viral RNA is possible in serum or plasma within 10 days of disease onset, in whole blood within 3 weeks of onset, and in semen for up to 3 months. Serological diagnosis is nonetheless critical because few patients have access to molecular diagnostics during the acute phase of infection and infection may be associated with only mild or inapparent disease that does not prompt molecular testing. Serological diagnosis is confounded by cross-reactivity of immune sera with other flaviviruses endemic in the areas where ZIKV has recently emerged. Accordingly, we built a high-density microarray comprising nonredundant 12-mer peptides that tile, with one-residue overlap, the proteomes of Zika, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, Ilheus, Oropouche, and chikungunya viruses. Serological analysis enabled discovery of a ZIKV NS2B 20-residue peptide that had high sensitivity (96.0%) and specificity (95.9%) versus natural infection with or vaccination against dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, West Nile, tick-borne encephalitis, or Japanese encephalitis virus in a microarray assay and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of early-convalescent-phase sera (2 to 3 weeks after onset of symptomatic infection).IMPORTANCEThe emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV) as a teratogen is a profound challenge to global public health. Molecular diagnosis of infection is straightforward during the 3-week period when patients are viremic. However, serological diagnosis thereafter of historical exposure has been confounded by cross-reactivity. Using high-density peptide arrays that tile the proteomes of a selection of flaviviruses to identify a ZIKV-specific peptide, we established two assays that enable sensitive and specific diagnosis of exposure to ZIKV. These assays may be useful in guiding clinical management of mothers at risk for potential exposure to ZIKV and enable insights into the epidemiology of ZIKV infections.

Concepts: Antibody, Infection, ELISA, ELISPOT, Assay, Viral diseases, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Although a causal relationship between Zika virus (ZIKV) and microcephaly has been established, it remains unclear why ZIKV, but not other pathogenic flaviviruses, causes congenital defects. Here we show that when viruses are produced in mammalian cells, ZIKV, but not the closely related dengue virus (DENV) or West Nile virus (WNV), can efficiently infect key placental barrier cells that directly contact the fetal bloodstream. We show that AXL, a receptor tyrosine kinase, is the primary ZIKV entry cofactor on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and that ZIKV uses AXL with much greater efficiency than does DENV or WNV. Consistent with this observation, only ZIKV, but not WNV or DENV, bound the AXL ligand Gas6. In comparison, when DENV and WNV were produced in insect cells, they also infected HUVECs in an AXL-dependent manner. Our data suggest that ZIKV, when produced from mammalian cells, infects fetal endothelial cells much more efficiently than other pathogenic flaviviruses because it binds Gas6 more avidly, which in turn facilitates its interaction with AXL.

Concepts: Fetus, Infection, Ribavirin, Viruses, West Nile virus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


The mosquito-borne flaviviruses include important human pathogens such as dengue, Zika, West Nile, and yellow fever viruses, which pose a serious threat for global health. Recent genetic screens identified endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-membrane multiprotein complexes, including the oligosaccharyltransferase (OST) complex, as critical flavivirus host factors. Here, we show that a chemical modulator of the OST complex termed NGI-1 has promising antiviral activity against flavivirus infections. We demonstrate that NGI-1 blocks viral RNA replication and that antiviral activity does not depend on inhibition of the N-glycosylation function of the OST. Viral mutants adapted to replicate in cells deficient of the OST complex showed resistance to NGI-1 treatment, reinforcing the on-target activity of NGI-1. Lastly, we show that NGI-1 also has strong antiviral activity in primary and disease-relevant cell types. This study provides an example for advancing from the identification of genetic determinants of infection to a host-directed antiviral compound with broad activity against flaviviruses.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses