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ORAL TRANSMISSION OF WEST NILE VIRUS IN A HAMSTER MODEL

ELENA SBRANADepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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JESSICA H. TONRYDepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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SHU-YUAN XIAODepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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AMELIA P. A. TRAVASSOS DA ROSADepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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STEPHEN HIGGSDepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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ROBERT B. TESHDepartment of Pathology and Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

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The results of experiments comparing the pathogenesis of West Nile virus (WNV) following infection by mosquito bite, needle inoculation, and ingestion are reported. Adult hamsters were readily infected by all three routes. The level and duration of viremia, clinical manifestations, pathology, and antibody response in the hamsters following mosquito infection and needle inoculation were similar; after oral infection, the onset of viremia was delayed and the mortality was lower, but the level and duration of viremia, histopathology, and antibody response were similar to the other routes. The results from this and previously published studies indicate that a wide variety of animal species are susceptible to oral infection with WNV and that orally infected animals develop a viremia and illness similar to that following the bite of infected mosquitoes. Oral infection appears to be an alternative transmission mechanism used by a number of different flaviviruses; its potential role in the natural history of WNV is discussed.

Author Notes

Reprint requests: Robert B. Tesh, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0609, Telephone: 409-747-2431, Fax: 409-747-2429, E-mail: rtesh@utmb.edu.
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