Flaviviruses pose a significant threat to both animals and humans. Recently, a novel flavivirus, duck Tembusu virus (DTMUV), was identified to be the causative agent of a serious duck viral disease in Asia. Its rapid spread, expanding host range, and uncertain transmission routes have raised substantial concerns regarding its potential threats to nonavian hosts, including humans. Here, we demonstrate that DTMUV is not pathogenic for nonhuman primates and is highly sensitive to mammal type I interferon (IFN) signaling. In vitro assays demonstrated that DTMUV infected and replicated efficiently in various mammalian cell lines. Further tests in mice demonstrated high neurovirulence and the age-dependent neuroinvasiveness of the virus. In particular, the inoculation of DTMUV into rhesus monkeys did not result in either viremia or apparent clinical symptoms, although DTMUV-specific humoral immune responses were detected. Furthermore, we revealed that although avian IFN failed to inhibit DTMUV in avian cells, DTMUV was more sensitive to the antiviral effects of type I interferon than other known human-pathogenic flaviviruses. Knockout of the type I IFN receptor in mice caused apparent viremia, viscerotropic disease, and mortality, indicating a vital role of IFN signaling in protection against DTMUV infection. Collectively, we provide direct experimental evidence that this novel avian-origin DTMUV possesses a limited capability to establish infection in immunocompetent primates due to its decreased antagonistic activity in the mammal IFN system. Furthermore, our findings highlight the potential risk of DTMUV infection in immunocompromised individuals and warrant studies on the cross-species transmission and pathogenesis of this novel flavivirus.
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