La Crosse Viremias in Mongolian Gerbils (Meriones unguiculatis)

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  • Department of Animal Health and Biomedical Sciences, Institute for Environmental Studies, and School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
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We examined the usefulness of mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) as a new animal model for La Crosse virus (LACV) studies. Gerbils were exposed to LACV by either intramuscular (im) inoculation or exposure to transovarially infected Aedes triseriatus. Our studies indicate that gerbils may be a suitable animal model for LACV infection. Gerbils were susceptible to LACV, survived viral infection, and developed viremias and neutralizing antibody titers following exposure by im injection and by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Moreover, they are attractive to mosquito vectors. Gerbils have other advantages as laboratory vertebrate hosts for LACV: they are inexpensive, breed in captivity, and are usually mild-mannered and easy to handle. Thus, gerbils are a suitable model in the study of LACV pathogenesis as well as of transplacental and vector transmission.