The Susceptibility of BALB/c Mice to a Mouse-Adapted Ebola Virus Intravaginal Infection

Olivier Escaffre, Terry L. Juelich, Jennifer K. Smith, Lihong Zhang, Nigel Bourne, Alexander N. Freiberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ebola virus (EBOV) causes Ebola virus disease (EVD), which is characterized by hemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in humans. EBOV sexual transmission has been a concern since the 2014–2016 outbreak in Africa, as persistent infection in the testis and transmission to women was demonstrated. The only study related to establishing an intravaginal small animal infection model was recently documented in IFNAR−/− mice using wild-type and mouse-adapted EBOV (maEBOV), and resulted in 80% mortality, supporting epidemiological data. However, this route of transmission is still poorly understood in women, and the resulting EVD from it is understudied. Here, we contribute to this field of research by providing data from immunocompetent BALB/c mice. We demonstrate that progesterone priming increased the likelihood of maEBOV vaginal infection and of exhibiting the symptoms of disease and seroconversion. However, our data suggest subclinical infection, regardless of the infective dose. We conclude that maEBOV can infect BALB/c mice through vaginal inoculation, but that this route of infection causes significantly less disease compared to intraperitoneal injection at a similar dose, which is consistent with previous studies using other peripheral routes of inoculation in that animal model. Our data are inconsistent with the disease severity described in female patients, therefore suggesting that BALB/c mice are unsuitable for modeling typical EVD following vaginal challenge with maEBOV. Further studies are required to determine the mechanisms by which EVD is attenuated in BALB/c mice, using maEBOV via the vaginal route, as in our experimental set-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1590
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • BALB/c mice
  • Ebola virus
  • intravaginal infection
  • sexual transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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