Impact of genetic diversity on biological characteristics of Usutu virus strains in Africa


Ndione MHD, Ndiaye EH, Thiam MS, Weidmann M, Faye M, Ba Y, Benkaroun J, Faye O, Loucoubar C, Sembène PM, Diallo M, Sall AA, Faye O & Fall G (2019) Impact of genetic diversity on biological characteristics of Usutu virus strains in Africa. Virus Research, 273, Art. No.: 197753.

Usutu virus (USUV) previously restricted to Africa where it caused mild infections, emerged in 2001 in Europe and caused more severe infections among birds and humans with neurological forms, suggesting an adaptation and increasing virulence. This evolution suggests the need to better understand USUV transmission patterns for assessing risks and to develop control strategies. Phylogenetic analysis conducted in Africa showed low genetic diversity of African USUV strains except for one human and the USUV subtype (USUVsub) strains, which exhibited a deletion in the 3′UTR and nucleotide substitutions throughout the genome. Here we analyzed their viral replication in vitro in mosquito and mammalian cells, and vector competence of Culex quinquefasciatus, compared to a reference strain. Growth kinetics of the different strains showed comparable replication rates however variations in replication and translation efficiency were observed. Vector competence analysis showed that all strains were able to infect Culex quinquefasciatus the main peridomestic Culex species in Africa, with detection of USUV viral genomes and infectious particles. Dissemination and transmission were observed only for USUVsub, but infectious particles were not detected in Culex quinquefasciatus saliva. Our findings suggest that genetic variability can affect USUV in vitro replication in a cell type-dependent manner and in vivo in mosquitoes. In addition, the results show that Culex quinquefasciatus is not competent for the USUV strains analyzed here and also suggest an aborted transmission process for the USUVsub, which requires further investigations.

Usutu virus; Genetic diversity; In vitro viral growth; Vector competence and culex quinquefasciatus

Virus Research: Volume 273

FundersEuropean Commission
Publication date30/11/2019
Publication date online12/09/2019
Date accepted by journal10/09/2019