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Open AccessArticle

Usutu Virus Infection of Embryonated Chicken Eggs and a Chicken Embryo-Derived Primary Cell Line

1
Fundamental and Applied Research for Animals & Health (FARAH), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Sart Tilman B43, B-4000 Liège, Belgium
2
OIE Reference Centre for West Nile Disease, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale “G. Caporale”, 46100 Teramo, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Viruses 2020, 12(5), 531; https://doi.org/10.3390/v12050531
Received: 3 March 2020 / Revised: 28 April 2020 / Accepted: 8 May 2020 / Published: 12 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Arboviruses)
Usutu virus (USUV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, closely related to the West Nile virus (WNV). Similar to WNV, USUV may cause infections in humans, with occasional, but sometimes severe, neurological complications. Further, USUV can be highly pathogenic in wild and captive birds and its circulation in Europe has given rise to substantial avian death. Adequate study models of this virus are still lacking but are critically needed to understand its pathogenesis and virulence spectrum. The chicken embryo is a low-cost, easy-to-manipulate and ethically acceptable model that closely reflects mammalian fetal development and allows immune response investigations, drug screening, and high-throughput virus production for vaccine development. While former studies suggested that this model was refractory to USUV infection, we unexpectedly found that high doses of four phylogenetically distinct USUV strains caused embryonic lethality. By employing immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, we demonstrated that USUV was widely distributed in embryonic tissues, including the brain, retina, and feather follicles. We then successfully developed a primary cell line from the chorioallantoic membrane that was permissive to the virus without the need for viral adaptation. We believe the future use of these models would foster a significant understanding of USUV-induced neuropathogenesis and immune response and allow the future development of drugs and vaccines against USUV. View Full-Text
Keywords: flavivirus; chicken embryo; model; Usutu virus; chorioallantoic membrane; primary culture; replication flavivirus; chicken embryo; model; Usutu virus; chorioallantoic membrane; primary culture; replication
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Benzarti, E.; Rivas, J.; Sarlet, M.; Franssen, M.; Moula, N.; Savini, G.; Lorusso, A.; Desmecht, D.; Garigliany, M.-M. Usutu Virus Infection of Embryonated Chicken Eggs and a Chicken Embryo-Derived Primary Cell Line. Viruses 2020, 12, 531.

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