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Flaviviruses are a genre of closely related viral pathogens which emerged in the last decades in Brazil and in the world. Saint (St.) Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) is a neglected flavivirus that can cause a severe neurological disease that may lead to death or sequelae. St. Louis encephalitis pathogenesis is poorly understood, which hinders the development of specific treatment or vaccine. To address this problem, we developed a model of SLEV infection in mice to study mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of severe disease. The model consists in the intracranial inoculation of the SLEV strain BeH 355964, a strain isolated from a symptomatic human patient in Brazil, in adult immunocompetent mice. Inoculated mice presented SLEV replication in the brain, accompanied by tissue damage, disease signs, and mortality approximately 7 days post infection. Infection was characterized by the production of proinflammatory cytokines and interferons and by leukocyte recruitment to the brain, composed mainly by neutrophils and lymphocytes. In vitro experiments indicated that SLEV is able to replicate in both neurons and glia and caused neuronal death and cytokine production, respectively. Altogether, intracranial SLEV infection leads to meningoencephalitis in mice, recapitulating several aspects of St. Louis encephalitis in humans. Our study indicates that the central nervous system (CNS) inflammation is a major component of SLEV-induced disease. This model may be useful to identify mechanisms of disease pathogenesis or resistance to SLEV infection.


Rafael Elias Marques, Juliana L Del Sarto, Rebeca P F Rocha, Giovanni F Gomes, Allysson Cramer, Milene A Rachid, Danielle G Souza, Maurício L Nogueira, Mauro M Teixeira. Development of a model of Saint Louis encephalitis infection and disease in mice. Journal of neuroinflammation. 2017 Mar 22;14(1):61

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PMID: 28330482

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