The pathogenesis of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus infection in alpha/beta interferon knockout mice: Insights into the pathologic mechanisms of a new viral hemorrhagic fever

Yan Liu, Bin Wu, Slobodan Paessler, David H. Walker, Robert B. Tesh, Xue Jie Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations


Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) is a newly discovered Phlebovirus causing an emerging hemorrhagic fever in East Asia, with reported case fatality rates up to 30%. Despite the high case fatality rate and large number of persons at risk of infection, the pathobiology of the disease is unknown, and no effective animal model has been available for investigating its pathogenesis. We have studied mice and hamsters as potential small-animal models of SFTSV infection following subcutaneous, intraperitoneal, or intracerebral inoculation. Animal tissues were processed for viral load determination, histopathology, immunohistochemistry, and confocal microscopic studies. We found that immunocompetent adult mice and hamsters did not become ill after SFTSV infection. However, alpha/beta interferon receptor knockout (IFNAR-/-) mice were highly susceptible to SFTSV infection, and all mice died within 3 to 4 days after subcutaneous inoculation of 106 focus-forming units of SFTSV. Histologic examination of tissues of IFNAR-/- mice infected with SFTSV showed no detectable lesions. In contrast, by immunohistochemistry virus antigen was found in liver, intestine, kidney, spleen, lymphoid tissue, and brain, but not in the lungs. Mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen were the most heavily infected tissues. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) confirmed the presence of virus in these tissues. Confocal microscopy showed that SFTSV colocalized with reticular cells but did not colocalize with dendritic cells, monocytes/macrophages, neutrophils, or endothelium. Our results indicate that SFTSV multiplied in all organs except for lungs and that mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen were the most heavily infected tissues. The major target cells of SFTSV appear to be reticular cells in lymphoid tissues of intestine and spleen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1781-1786
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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