Comparative Pathogenesis of Alkhumra Hemorrhagic Fever and Kyasanur Forest Disease Viruses in a Mouse Model

Bevan Sawatsky, Alexander J. McAuley, Michael R. Holbrook, Dennis A. Bente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Kyasanur Forest disease virus (KFDV) and Alkhumra hemorrhagic fever virus (AHFV) are genetically closely-related, tick-borne flaviviruses that cause severe, often fatal disease in humans. Flaviviruses in the tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) complex typically cause neurological disease in humans whereas patients infected with KFDV and AHFV predominately present with hemorrhagic fever. A small animal model for KFDV and AHFV to study the pathogenesis and evaluate countermeasures has been lacking mostly due to the need of a high biocontainment laboratory to work with the viruses. To evaluate the utility of an existing mouse model for tick-borne flavivirus pathogenesis, we performed serial sacrifice studies in BALB/c mice infected with either KFDV strain P9605 or AHFV strain Zaki-1. Strikingly, infection with KFDV was completely lethal in mice, while AHFV caused no clinical signs of disease and no animals succumbed to infection. KFDV and high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were detected in the brain at later time points, but no virus was found in visceral organs; conversely, AHFV Zaki-1 and elevated levels of cytokines were found in the visceral organs at earlier time points, but were not detected in the brain. While infection with either virus caused a generalized leukopenia, only AHFV Zaki-1 induced hematologic abnormalities in infected animals. Our data suggest that KFDV P9605 may have lost its ability to cause hemorrhagic disease as the result of multiple passages in suckling mouse brains. However, likely by virtue of fewer mouse passages, AHFV Zaki-1 has retained the ability to replicate in visceral organs, cause hematologic abnormalities, and induce pro-inflammatory cytokines without causing overt disease. Given these striking differences, the use of inbred mice and the virus passage history need to be carefully considered in the interpretation of animal studies using these viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2934
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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