The retroviral subfamily of Spumaretrovirinae
consists of five genera of foamy (spuma) viruses (FVs) that are endemic in some mammalian hosts. Closely related species may be susceptible to the same or highly related FVs. FVs are not known to induce overt disease and thus do not pose medical problems to humans and livestock or companion animals. A robust lab animal model is not available or is a lab animal a natural host of a FV. Due to this, research is limited and often focused on the simian FVs with their well-established zoonotic potential. The authors of this review and their groups have conducted several studies on bovine FV (BFV) in the past with the intention of (i) exploring the risk of zoonotic infection via beef and raw cattle products, (ii) studying a co-factorial role of BFV in different cattle diseases with unclear etiology, (iii) exploring unique features of FV molecular biology and replication strategies in non-simian FVs, and (iv) conducting animal studies and functional virology in BFV-infected calves as a model for corresponding studies in primates or small lab animals. These studies gained new insights into FV-host interactions, mechanisms of gene expression, and transcriptional regulation, including miRNA biology, host-directed restriction of FV replication, spread and distribution in the infected animal, and at the population level. The current review attempts to summarize these findings in BFV and tries to connect them to findings from other FVs.
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