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PREVIOUS INFECTION WITH WEST NILE OR ST. LOUIS ENCEPHALITIS VIRUSES PROVIDES CROSS PROTECTION DURING REINFECTION IN HOUSE FINCHES

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  • 1 Center for Vectorborne Diseases and Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California
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House finches are competent hosts for both West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses and frequently become infected during outbreaks. In the current study, House finches were infected initially with either West Nile or St. Louis encephalitis viruses and then challenged 6 weeks post infection with either homologous or heterologous viruses. Although mortality rates were high during initial infection with West Nile virus, prior infection with either virus prevented mortality upon challenge with West Nile virus. Prior infection with West Nile virus provided sterilizing immunity against both viruses, whereas prior infection with St. Louis encephalitis virus prevented viremia from St. Louis encephalitis virus, but only reduced West Nile virus viremia titers. Immunologic responses were measured by enzyme immunoassay and plaque reduction neutralization tests. Heterologous challenge with West Nile virus in birds previously infected with St. Louis encephalitis virus produced the greatest immunologic response, markedly boosting antibody levels against St. Louis encephalitis virus. Our data have broad implications for free-ranging avian serological diagnostics and possibly for the recent disappearance of St. Louis encephalitis virus from California.

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