Increased growth ability and pathogenicity of American- and Pacific-subtype Zika virus (ZIKV) strains compared with a Southeast Asian-subtype ZIKV strain

by Yasuhiro Kawai, Eri Nakayama, Kenta Takahashi, Satoshi Taniguchi, Ken-ichi Shibasaki, Fumihiro Kato, Takahiro Maeki, Tadaki Suzuki, Shigeru Tajima, Masayuki Saijo, Chang-Kweng Lim

We investigated the growth properties and virulence in mice of three Zika virus (ZIKV) strains of Asian/American lineage, PRVABC59, ZIKV/Hu/Chiba/S36/2016 (ChibaS36), and ZIKV/Hu/NIID123/2016 (NIID123), belonging to the three distinct subtypes of this lineage. The American-subtype strain, PRVABC59, showed the highest growth potential in vitro, whereas the Southeast Asian-subtype strain, NIID123, showed the lowest proliferative capacity. Moreover, PRVABC59- and NIID123-infected mice showed the highest and lowest viremia levels and infectious virus levels in the testis, respectively, and the rate of damaged testis in PRVABC59-infected mice was higher than in mice infected with the other two strains. Lastly, ZIKV NS1 antigen was detected in the damaged testes of mice infected with PRVABC59 and the Pacific-subtype strain, ChibaS36, at 2 weeks post-inoculation and in the epididymides of PRVABC59-infected mice at 6 weeks post-inoculation. Our results indicate that PRVABC59 and ChibaS36 exhibit increased abilities to grow in vitro and in vivo and to induce testis damage in mice.

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