The mosquito-borne disease dengue (DEN) is caused by four serologically and genetically related viruses, termed DENV-1 to DENV-4. Infection with one DENV usually leads to acute illness and results in lifelong homotypic immunity, but individuals remain susceptible to infection by the other three DENVs. The lack of a small-animal model that mimics systemic DEN disease without neurovirulence has been an obstacle, but DENV-2 models that resemble human disease have been recently developed in AG129 mice (deficient in interferon alpha/beta and interferon gamma receptor signaling). However, comparable DENV-1, -3, and -4 models have not been developed. We utilized a non-mouse-adapted DENV-3 Thai human isolate to develop a lethal infection model in AG129 mice. Intraperitoneal inoculation of six to eight-week-old animals with strain C0360/94 led to rapid, fatal disease. Lethal C0360/94 infection resulted in physical signs of illness, high viral loads in the spleen, liver, and large intestine, histological changes in the liver and spleen tissues, and increased serum cytokine levels. Importantly, the animals developed vascular leakage, thrombocytopenia, and leukopenia. Overall, we have developed a lethal DENV-3 murine infection model, with no evidence of neurotropic disease based on a non-mouse-adapted human isolate, which can be used to investigate DEN pathogenesis and to evaluate candidate vaccines and antivirals. This suggests that murine models utilizing non-mouse-adapted isolates can be obtained for all four DENVs.
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