Despite recent advances in the genetics of West Nile (WN) virus, relatively little is known about the molecular basis of virulence of this virus. In particular, although the genotype of the WN virus strain that was recently introduced into North America has been determined, there have been few experimental studies on the virulence phenotype of the virus. We compared genetic and neurovirulence properties of 19 strains of WN virus, including 2 from North America, and observed significant differences in their neuroinvasive phenotype in mice and hamsters that correlated with virus genotype. Virus isolated in North America was found to be highly neuroinvasive with a lack of age-related resistance to infection in mice normally associated with mosquito-borne flaviviruses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas