Experimental infection of Australian brushtail possums, Trichosurus vulpecula (Phalangeridae: Marsupialia), with Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses by use of a natural mosquito vector system.

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  • 1 Queensland Institute of Medical Research and University of Queensland, Tropical Health Program, St. Lucia, Australia. annB@qimr.edu.au

Brushtail possums, Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr, were experimentally infected with Ross River (RR) or Barmah Forest (BF) virus by Aedes vigilax (Skuse) mosquitoes. Eight of 10 animals exposed to RR virus developed neutralizing antibody, and 3 possums developed high viremia for < 48 hr after infection, sufficient to infect recipient mosquitoes. Two of 10 animals exposed to BF virus developed neutralizing antibody. Both infected possums maintained detectable neutralizing antibody to BF for at least 45 days after infection (log neutralization index > 2.0 at 45 days). Eight possums did not develop neutralizing antibody to BF despite exposure to infected mosquitoes. These results suggest that T. vulpecula may potentially act as a reservoir species for RR in urban areas. However, T. vulpecula infected with BF do not develop viremia sufficient to infect mosquitoes and are unlikely to be important hosts for BF.