Experimental infection of rhesus monkeys and marmosets with an European strain of West Nile Virus

23 April 2014

BPRC - 1. Experimental infection of rhesus monkeys and marmosets with an European strain of West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus (WNV) is spread by mosquitoes, and infects mammals, including humans. In humans, WNV can cause serious neurological disorders, sometimes with fatal outcome. In recent years, in North America and Europe, there has been a significant increase in the number of outbreaks caused by this virus. There is no vaccine available against WNV and therefore more research on this virus is urgently needed.

There are rodent models established for WNV. Several vaccine candidates have been tested in these models, but due to differences in the immune system between rodents and humans, these experiments are of limited predictive value for the situation in humans. Also, the disease caused by WNV in rodents, is different than in humans.

Researchers at the BPRC have now examined whether an European strain of WNV could infect healthy rhesus monkeys and marmosets. This was indeed the case. However, the monkeys did not get sick. This closely mimics the situation in man: only people with weakened immune systems become ill. We now have the opportunity to study the biology of WNV and test vaccine candidates in an animal model that more closely resembles the human situation. This work is described in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.