Scholarly Works, Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens (CeZAP)

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  • Peptidoglycan in osteoarthritis synovial tissue is associated with joint inflammation
    Holub, Meaghan N.; Wahhab, Amanda; Rouse, Joseph R.; Danner, Rebecca; Hackner, Lauren G.; Duris, Christine B.; McClune, Mecaila E.; Dressler, Jules M.; Strle, Klemen; Jutras, Brandon L.; Edelstein, Adam I.; Lochhead, Robert B. (2024-03-27)
    Objectives: Peptidoglycan (PG) is an arthritogenic bacterial cell wall component whose role in human osteoarthritis is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine if PG is present in synovial tissue of osteoarthritis patients at the time of primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA), and if its presence is associated with inflammation and patient reported outcomes. Methods: Intraoperative synovial tissue and synovial fluid samples were obtained from 56 patients undergoing primary TKA, none of whom had history of infection. PG in synovial tissue was detected by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and immunofluorescence microscopy (IFM). Synovial tissue inflammation and fibrosis were assessed by histopathology and synovial fluid cytokine quantification. Primary human fibroblasts isolated from arthritis synovial tissue were stimulated with PG to determine inflammatory cytokine response. Results: A total of 33/56 (59%) of primary TKA synovial tissue samples were positive for PG by IHC, and PG staining colocalized with markers of synovial macrophages and fibroblasts by IFM. Synovial tissue inflammation and elevated IL-6 in synovial fluid positively correlated with PG positivity. Primary human fibroblasts stimulated with PG secreted high levels of IL-6, consistent with ex vivo findings. Interestingly, we observed a significant inverse correlation between PG and age at time of TKA, indicating younger age at time of TKA was associated with higher PG levels. Conclusion: Peptidoglycan is commonly found in synovial tissue from patients undergoing TKA. Our data indicate that PG may play an important role in inflammatory synovitis, particularly in patients who undergo TKA at a relatively younger age.
  • Expanding the Biosynthetic Toolbox: The Potential and Challenges of In Vitro Type II Polyketide Synthase Research
    Rivers, Max A. J.; Lowell, Andrew N. (MDPI, 2024-03-07)
    Type II polyketide synthase (PKS) systems are a rich source of structurally diverse polycyclic aromatic compounds with clinically relevant antibiotic and chemotherapeutic properties. The enzymes responsible for synthesizing the polyketide core, known collectively as the minimal cassette, hold potential for applications in synthetic biology. The minimal cassette provides polyketides of different chain lengths, which interact with other enzymes that are responsible for the varied cyclization patterns. Additionally, the type II PKS enzyme clusters offer a wide repertoire of tailoring enzymes for oxidations, glycosylations, cyclizations, and rearrangements. This review begins with the variety of chemical space accessible with type II PKS systems including the recently discovered highly reducing variants that produce polyalkenes instead of the archetypical polyketide motif. The main discussion analyzes the previous approaches with an emphasis on further research that is needed to characterize the minimal cassette enzymes in vitro. Finally, the potential type II PKS systems hold the potential to offer new tools in biocatalysis and synthetic biology, particularly in the production of novel antibiotics and biofuels.
  • SARS-CoV-2 Specific Nanobodies Neutralize Different Variants of Concern and Reduce Virus Load in the Brain of h-ACE2 Transgenic Mice
    Pavan, María Florencia; Bok, Marina; Betanzos San Juan, Rafael; Malito, Juan Pablo; Marcoppido, Gisela Ariana; Franco, Diego Rafael; Militelo, Daniela Ayelen; Schammas, Juan Manuel; Bari, Sara Elizabeth; Stone, William; López, Krisangel; Porier, Danielle LaBrie; Muller, John Anthony; Auguste, Albert Jonathan; Yuan, Lijuan; Wigdorovitz, Andrés; Parreño, Viviana Gladys; Ibañez, Lorena Itat (MDPI, 2024-01-25)
    Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant need to develop antivirals and vaccines to combat the disease. In this work, we developed llama-derived nanobodies (Nbs) directed against the receptor binding domain (RBD) and other domains of the Spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2. Most of the Nbs with neutralizing properties were directed to RBD and were able to block S-2P/ACE2 interaction. Three neutralizing Nbs recognized the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the S-2P protein. Intranasal administration of Nbs induced protection ranging from 40% to 80% after challenge with the WA1/2020 strain in k18-hACE2 transgenic mice. Interestingly, protection was associated with a significant reduction in virus replication in nasal turbinates and a reduction in virus load in the brain. Employing pseudovirus neutralization assays, we identified Nbs with neutralizing capacity against the Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants, including a Nb capable of neutralizing all variants tested. Furthermore, cocktails of different Nbs performed better than individual Nbs at neutralizing two Omicron variants (B.1.529 and BA.2). Altogether, the data suggest the potential of SARS-CoV-2 specific Nbs for intranasal treatment of COVID-19 encephalitis.
  • Ingested histamine and serotonin interact to alter Anopheles stephensi feeding and flight behavior and infection with Plasmodium parasites
    Coles, Taylor A.; Briggs, Anna M.; Hambly, Malayna G.; Cespedes, Nora; Fellows, Abigail M.; Kaylor, Hannah L.; Adams, Alexandria D.; Van Susteren, Grace; Bentil, Ronald E.; Robert, Michael A.; Riffell, Jeffrey A.; Lewis, Edwin E.; Luckhart, Shirley (Frontiers, 2023-07-24)
    Blood levels of histamine and serotonin (5-HT) are altered in human malaria, and, at these levels, we have shown they have broad, independent effects on Anopheles stephensi following ingestion by this invasive mosquito. Given that histamine and 5-HT are ingested together under natural conditions and that histaminergic and serotonergic signaling are networked in other organisms, we examined effects of combinations of these biogenic amines provisioned to A. stephensi at healthy human levels (high 5-HT, low histamine) or levels associated with severe malaria (low 5-HT, high histamine). Treatments were delivered in water (priming) before feeding A. stephensi on Plasmodium yoelii-infected mice or via artificial blood meal. Relative to effects of histamine and 5-HT alone, effects of biogenic amine combinations were complex. Biogenic amine treatments had the greatest impact on the first oviposition cycle, with high histamine moderating low 5-HT effects in combination. In contrast, clutch sizes were similar across combination and individual treatments. While high histamine alone increased uninfected A. stephensi weekly lifetime blood feeding, neither combination altered this tendency relative to controls. The tendency to re-feed 2 weeks after the first blood meal was altered by combination treatments, but this depended on mode of delivery. For blood delivery, malaria-associated treatments yielded higher percentages of fed females relative to healthy-associated treatments, but the converse was true for priming. Female mosquitoes treated with the malaria-associated combination exhibited enhanced flight behavior and object inspection relative to controls and healthy combination treatment. Mosquitoes primed with the malaria-associated combination exhibited higher mean oocysts and sporozoite infection prevalence relative to the healthy combination, with high histamine having a dominant effect on these patterns. Compared with uninfected A. stephensi, the tendency of infected mosquitoes to take a second blood meal revealed an interaction of biogenic amines with infection. We used a mathematical model to project the impacts of different levels of biogenic amines and associated changes on outbreaks in human populations. While not all outbreak parameters were impacted the same, the sum of effects suggests that histamine and 5-HT alter the likelihood of transmission by mosquitoes that feed on hosts with symptomatic malaria versus a healthy host.
  • Relationship between Climate Variables and Dengue Incidence in Argentina
    Lopez, Maria S.; Gomez, Andre A.; Müller, Gabriela V.; Walker, Elisabet; Robert, Michael A.; Estallo, Elizabet L. (US HHS, 2023-05-24)
    BACKGROUND: Climate change is an important driver of the increased spread of dengue from tropical and subtropical regions to temperate areas around the world. Climate variables such as temperature and precipitation influence the dengue vector’s biology, physiology, abundance, and life cycle. Thus, an analysis is needed of changes in climate change and their possible relationships with dengue incidence and the growing occurrence of epidemics recorded in recent decades. OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to assess the increasing incidence of dengue driven by climate change at the southern limits of dengue virus transmission in South America. METHODS: We analyzed the evolution of climatological, epidemiological, and biological variables by comparing a period of time without the presence of dengue cases (1976–1997) to a more recent period of time in which dengue cases and important outbreaks occurred (1998–2020). In our analysis, we consider climate variables associated with temperature and precipitation, epidemiological variables such as the number of reported dengue cases and incidence of dengue, and biological variables such as the optimal temperature ranges for transmission of dengue vector. RESULTS: The presence of dengue cases and epidemic outbreaks are observed to be consistent with positive trends in temperature and anomalies from long-term means. Dengue cases do not seem to be associated with precipitation trends and anomalies. The number of days with optimal temperatures for dengue transmission increased from the period without dengue cases to the period with occurrences of dengue cases. The number of months with optimal transmission temperatures also increased between periods but to a lesser extent. CONCLUSIONS: The higher incidence of dengue virus and its expansion to different regions of Argentina seem to be associated with temperature increases in the country during the past two decades. The active surveillance of both the vector and associated arboviruses, together with continued meteorological data collection, will facilitate the assessment and prediction of future epidemics that use trends in the accelerated changes in climate. Such surveillance should go hand in hand with efforts to improve the understanding of the mechanisms driving the geographic expansion of dengue and other arboviruses beyond the current limits.
  • Systematic literature review identifying bacterial constituents in the core intestinal microbiome of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
    Hines, Ian S.; Marshall, Maggie A.; Smith, Stephen A.; Kuhn, David D.; Stevens, Ann M. (Wiley, 2023-08-11)
    Fish aquaculture has become the fastest growing sector in global food production. Thus, ensuring the sustainability of aquaculture practices is of the utmost importance. Studies in higher vertebrates (i.e. mammals) have demonstrated the role of the host microbiome in physiological processes from nutrient acquisition to pathogen protection. Therefore, analysis of fish microbiomes is an important factor to consider with regard to overall animal health and welfare. Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are an economically valued fish cultured worldwide. Several studies have identified microbial constituents inhabiting the intestinal tract of rainbow trout. To better elucidate some of the core constituents of the rainbow trout intestinal microbiome, this systematic literature review analysed the relative abundance results from 25 articles published on the rainbow trout intestinal microbiome from 2017 to 2021. Bacteria classified within the phyla Firmicutes and Proteobacteria were observed in every study. At the family level, Lactobacillaceae was consistently observed. Additionally, bacteria in the Actinobacteria, Bacteroides, and Tenericutes phyla were identified in at least 50% of the studies. Interestingly, Mycoplasma spp. were occasionally the most dominant organisms present in the microbiome. Overall, the results here identify bacteria that are commonly found members of the rainbow trout intestinal microbiome.
  • Expression of anti-chikungunya single-domain antibodies in transgenic Aedes aegypti reduces vector competence for chikungunya virus and Mayaro virus
    Webb, Emily M.; Compton, Austin; Rai, Pallavi; Chuong, Christina; Paulson, Sally L.; Tu, Zhijian; Weger-Lucarelli, James (Frontiers, 2023-06-12)
    Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and Mayaro virus (MAYV) are closely related alphaviruses that cause acute febrile illness accompanied by an incapacitating polyarthralgia that can persist for years following initial infection. In conjunction with sporadic outbreaks throughout the sub-tropical regions of the Americas, increased global travel to CHIKV- and MAYV-endemic areas has resulted in imported cases of MAYV, as well as imported cases and autochthonous transmission of CHIKV, within the United States and Europe. With increasing prevalence of CHIKV worldwide and MAYV throughout the Americas within the last decade, a heavy focus has been placed on control and prevention programs. To date, the most effective means of controlling the spread of these viruses is through mosquito control programs. However, current programs have limitations in their effectiveness; therefore, novel approaches are necessary to control the spread of these crippling pathogens and lessen their disease burden. We have previously identified and characterized an anti-CHIKV single-domain antibody (sdAb) that potently neutralizes several alphaviruses including Ross River virus and Mayaro virus. Given the close antigenic relationship between MAYV and CHIKV, we formulated a single defense strategy to combat both emerging arboviruses: we generated transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that express two camelid-derived anti-CHIKV sdAbs. Following an infectious bloodmeal, we observed significant reduction in CHIKV and MAYV replication and transmission potential in sdAb-expressing transgenic compared to wild-type mosquitoes; thus, this strategy provides a novel approach to controlling and preventing outbreaks of these pathogens that reduce quality of life throughout the tropical regions of the world.
  • Exploring the immunogenicity of an insect-specific virus vectored Zika vaccine candidate
    Tanelus, Manette; López, Krisangel; Smith, Shaan; Muller, John A.; Porier, Danielle L.; Auguste, Dawn I.; Stone, William B.; Paulson, Sally L.; Auguste, Albert J. (Springer, 2023-12-01)
    Zika virus (ZIKV) is an important re-emerging flavivirus that presents a significant threat to human health worldwide. Despite its importance, no vaccines are approved for use in humans. Insect-specific flaviviruses (ISFVs) have recently garnered attention as an antigen presentation platform for vaccine development and diagnostic applications. Here, we further explore the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of a chimeric ISFV-Zika vaccine candidate, designated Aripo-Zika (ARPV/ZIKV). Our results show a near-linear relationship between increased dose and immunogenicity, with 1011 genome copies (i.e., 108 focus forming units) being the minimum dose required for protection from ZIKV-induced morbidity and mortality in mice. Including boosters did not significantly increase the short-term efficacy of ARPV/ZIKV-vaccinated mice. We also show that weanling mice derived from ARPV/ZIKV-vaccinated dams were completely protected from ZIKV-induced morbidity and mortality upon challenge, suggesting efficient transfer of maternally-derived protective antibodies. Finally, in vitro coinfection studies of ZIKV with Aripo virus (ARPV) and ARPV/ZIKV in African green monkey kidney cells (i.e., Vero-76) showed that ARPV and ARPV/ZIKV remain incapable of replication in vertebrate cells, despite the presence of active ZIKV replication. Altogether, our data continue to support ISFV-based vaccines, and specifically the ARPV backbone is a safe, immunogenic and effective vaccine strategy for flaviviruses.
  • A timeline of bacterial and archaeal diversification in the ocean
    Martinez-Gutierrez, Carolina A.; Uyeda, Josef C.; Aylward, Frank O. (eLife Sciences, 2023-12)
    Microbial plankton play a central role in marine biogeochemical cycles, but the timing in which abundant lineages diversified into ocean environments remains unclear. Here, we reconstructed the timeline in which major clades of bacteria and archaea colonized the ocean using a high-resolution benchmarked phylogenetic tree that allows for simultaneous and direct comparison of the ages of multiple divergent lineages. Our findings show that the diversification of the most prevalent marine clades spans throughout a period of 2.2 Ga, with most clades colonizing the ocean during the last 800 million years. The oldest clades - SAR202, SAR324, Ca. Marinimicrobia, and Marine Group II - diversified around the time of the Great Oxidation Event, during which oxygen concentration increased but remained at microaerophilic levels throughout the Mid-Proterozoic, consistent with the prevalence of some clades within these groups in oxygen minimum zones today. We found the diversification of the prevalent heterotrophic marine clades SAR11, SAR116, SAR92, SAR86, and Roseobacter as well as the Marine Group I to occur near to the Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event (0.8-0.4 Ga). The diversification of these clades is concomitant with an overall increase of oxygen and nutrients in the ocean at this time, as well as the diversification of eukaryotic algae, consistent with the previous hypothesis that the diversification of heterotrophic bacteria is linked to the emergence of large eukaryotic phytoplankton. The youngest clades correspond to the widespread phototrophic clades Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, and Crocosphaera, whose diversification happened after the Phanerozoic Oxidation Event (0.45-0.4 Ga), in which oxygen concentrations had already reached their modern levels in the atmosphere and the ocean. Our work clarifies the timing at which abundant lineages of bacteria and archaea colonized the ocean, thereby providing key insights into the evolutionary history of lineages that comprise the majority of prokaryotic biomass in the modern ocean.
  • Climate change linked to vampire bat expansion and rabies virus spillover
    Van de Vuurst, Paige; Qiao, Huijie; Soler-Tovar, Diego; Escobar, Luis E. (Wiley, 2023-10)
    Bat-borne pathogens are a threat to global health and in recent history have had major impacts on human morbidity and mortality. Examples include diseases such as rabies, Nipah virus encephalitis, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Climate change may exacerbate the emergence of bat-borne pathogens by affecting the ecology of bats in tropical ecosystems. Here, we report the impacts of climate change on the distributional ecology of the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus across the last century. Our retrospective analysis revealed a positive relationship between changes in climate and the northern expansion of the distribution of D. rotundus in North America. Furthermore, we also found a reduction in the standard deviation of temperatures at D. rotundus capture locations during the last century, expressed as more consistent, less-seasonal climate in recent years. These results elucidate an association between D. rotundus range expansion and a continental-level rise in rabies virus spillover transmission from D. rotundus to cattle in the last 50 years of the 120-year study period. This correlative study, based on field observations, offers empirical evidence supporting previous statistical and mathematical simulation-based studies reporting a likely increase of bat-borne diseases in response to climate change. We conclude that the D. rotundus rabies system exemplifies the consequences of climate change augmentation at the wildlife–livestock–human interface, demonstrating how global change acts upon these complex and interconnected systems to drive increased disease emergence.
  • The role of Culex territans mosquitoes in the transmission of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis to amphibian hosts
    Reinhold, Joanna M.; Halbert, Ella; Roark, Megan; Smith, Sierra N.; Stroh, Katherine M.; Siler, Cameron D.; McLeod, David S.; Lahondère, Chloé (2023-11-16)
    Background Mosquitoes are the deadliest organisms in the world, killing an estimated 750,000 people per year due to the pathogens they can transmit. Mosquitoes also pose a major threat to other vertebrate animals. Culex territans is a mosquito species found in temperate zones worldwide that feeds almost exclusively on amphibians and can transmit parasites; however, little is known about its ability to transmit other pathogens, including fungi. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a topical pathogenic fungus that spreads through contact. With amphibian populations around the world experiencing mass die-offs and extinctions due to this pathogen, it is critical to study all potential modes of transmission. Because Cx. territans mosquitoes are in contact with their hosts for long periods of time while blood-feeding, we hypothesize that they can transmit and pick up Bd. Methods In this study, we first assessed Cx. territans ability to transfer the fungus from an infected surface to a clean one under laboratory conditions. We also conducted a surveillance study of Bd infections in frogs and mosquitoes in the field (Mountain Lake Biological station, VA, USA). In parallel, we determined Cx. territans host preference via blood meal analysis of field caught mosquitoes. Results We found that this mosquito species can carry the fungus to an uninfected surface, implying that they may have the ability to transmit Bd to their amphibian hosts. We also found that Cx. territans feed primarily on green frogs (Rana clamitans) and bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) and that the prevalence of Bd within the frog population at our field site varied between years. Conclusions This study provides critical insights into understanding the role of amphibian-biting mosquitoes in transmitting pathogens, which can be applied to disease ecology of susceptible amphibian populations worldwide.
  • Replication in the presence of dengue convalescent serum impacts Zika virus neutralization sensitivity and fitness
    Marano, Jeffrey M.; Weger-Lucarelli, James (Frontiers, 2023-03)
    Introduction: Flaviviruses like dengue virus (DENV) and Zika virus (ZIKV) are mosquito-borne viruses that cause febrile, hemorrhagic, and neurological diseases in humans, resulting in 400 million infections annually. Due to their co-circulation in many parts of the world, flaviviruses must replicate in the presence of pre-existing adaptive immune responses targeted at serologically closely related pathogens, which can provide protection or enhance disease. However, the impact of pre-existing cross-reactive immunity as a driver of flavivirus evolution, and subsequently the implications on the emergence of immune escape variants, is poorly understood. Therefore, we investigated how replication in the presence of convalescent dengue serum drives ZIKV evolution. Methods: We used an in vitro directed evolution system, passaging ZIKV in the presence of serum from humans previously infected with DENV (anti-DENV) or serum from DENV-naive patients (control serum). Following five passages in the presence of serum, we performed next-generation sequencing to identify mutations that arose during passaging. We studied two non-synonymous mutations found in the anti-DENV passaged population (E-V355I and NS1-T139A) by generating individual ZIKV mutants and assessing fitness in mammalian cells and live mosquitoes, as well as their sensitivity to antibody neutralization. Results and discussion: Both viruses had increased fitness in Vero cells with and without the addition of anti-DENV serum and in human lung epithelial and monocyte cells. In Aedes aegypti mosquitoes-using blood meals with and without anti-DENV serum-the mutant viruses had significantly reduced fitness compared to wild-type ZIKV. These results align with the trade-off hypothesis of constrained mosquito-borne virus evolution. Notably, only the NS1-T139A mutation escaped neutralization, while E-V335I demonstrated enhanced neutralization sensitivity to neutralization by anti-DENV serum, indicating that neutralization escape is not necessary for viruses passaged under cross-reactive immune pressures. Future studies are needed to assess cross-reactive immune selection in humans and relevant animal models or with different flaviviruses.
  • Fetal Loss in Pregnant Rabbits Infected with Genotype 3 Hepatitis E Virus Is Associated with Altered Inflammatory Responses, Enhanced Virus Replication, and Extrahepatic Virus Dissemination with Positive Correlations with Increased Estradiol Level
    Mahsoub, Hassan M. M.; Heffron, C. Lynn; Hassebroek, Anna M. M.; Sooryanarain, Harini; Wang, Bo; LeRoith, Tanya; Rodriguez, Guillermo Raimundi; Tian, Debin; Meng, Xiang-Jin (American Society for Microbiology, 2023-03)
    HEV causes adverse pregnancy outcomes, with a mortality rate of >30% in pregnant women, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In this study, we utilized HEV-3ra and its cognate host (pregnant rabbit) to delineate the potential underlying mechanisms of pregnancy-associated adverse outcomes during HEV infection. Hepatitis E virus (HEV) causes adverse clinical outcomes in pregnant women, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. To delineate the mechanisms of pregnancy-associated adverse effects during HEV infection, we utilized a genotype 3 HEV from rabbit (HEV-3ra) and its cognate host (rabbits) to systematically investigate the clinical consequences, viral replication dynamics, and host immune and hormonal responses of HEV infection during pregnancy. We found a significant fetal loss of 23% in HEV-infected pregnant rabbits, indicating an early-stage miscarriage. HEV infection in pregnant rabbits was characterized by higher viral loads in feces, intestinal contents, liver, and spleen tissues, as well as a longer and earlier onset of viremia than in infected nonpregnant rabbits. HEV infection altered the pattern of cytokine gene expressions in the liver of pregnant rabbits and caused a transient increase of serum interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) shortly after a notable increase in viral replication, which may contribute to early fetal loss. Histological lesions in the spleen were more pronounced in infected pregnant rabbits, although moderate liver lesions were seen in both infected pregnant and nonpregnant rabbits. Total bilirubin was elevated in infected pregnant rabbits. The serum levels of estradiol (E2) in HEV-infected pregnant rabbits were significantly higher than those in mock-infected pregnant rabbits at 14 days postinoculation (dpi) and correlated positively with higher viral loads in feces, liver, and spleen tissues at 28 dpi, suggesting that it may play a role in extrahepatic virus dissemination. The results have important implications for understanding the severe diseases associated with HEV infection during pregnancy.IMPORTANCE HEV causes adverse pregnancy outcomes, with a mortality rate of >30% in pregnant women, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In this study, we utilized HEV-3ra and its cognate host (pregnant rabbit) to delineate the potential underlying mechanisms of pregnancy-associated adverse outcomes during HEV infection. We found that infected pregnant rabbits had a fetal loss of 23%, which coincided with enhanced viral replication and an elevated systemic IFN-gamma response, followed by longer viremia duration and extrahepatic viral dissemination. Estradiol levels were increased in infected pregnant rabbits and correlated positively with higher fecal viral shedding and higher viral loads in liver and spleen tissues. Infected pregnant rabbits had more pronounced splenic lesions, higher serum total bilirubin, and an altered cytokine gene expression profile in the liver. The results will contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms of HEV-associated adverse pregnancy outcomes.
  • La Crosse Virus Circulation in Virginia, Assessed via Serosurveillance in Wildlife Species
    Faw, Lindsey R.; Riley, Jennifer; Eastwood, Gillian (MDPI, 2023-06-30)
    Mosquito-borne La Crosse virus (LACV; family: Peribunyaviridae) is the leading cause of pediatric arboviral encephalitis in the United States, with clinical cases generally centered in the Midwest and Appalachian regions. Incidence of LACV cases in Appalachian states has increased, such that the region currently represents the majority of reported LACV cases in the USA. The amount of reported LACV cases from Virginia, however, is minimal compared to neighboring states such as North Carolina, West Virginia, and Tennessee, and non-Appalachian regions of Virginia are understudied. Here we examine the hypothesis that LACV is circulating widely in Virginia, despite a low clinical case report rate, and that the virus is circulating in areas not associated with LACV disease. In this study, we screened local mammalian wildlife in northwestern counties of Virginia using passive surveillance via patients submitted to wildlife rehabilitation centers. Blood sera (527 samples; 9 species, 8 genera) collected between October 2019 and December 2022 were screened for neutralizing antibodies against LACV, indicating prior exposure to the virus. We found an overall LACV seroprevalence of 1.90% among all wild mammals examined and reveal evidence of LACV exposure in several wild species not generally associated with LACV, including eastern cottontails and red foxes, along with established reservoirs, eastern gray squirrels, although there was no serological evidence in chipmunks. These data indicate the circulation of LACV in Virginia outside of Appalachian counties, however, at a lower rate than reported for endemic areas within the state and in other states.
  • Genetic Diversity of Newcastle Disease Virus Involved in the 2021 Outbreaks in Backyard Poultry Farms in Tanzania
    Amoia, Charlie F.; Hakizimana, Jean N.; Duggal, Nisha K.; Chengula, Augustino A.; Rohaim, Mohammed A.; Munir, Muhammad; Weger-Lucarelli, James; Misinzo, Gerald (MDPI, 2023-07-21)
    Newcastle disease virus is a significant avian pathogen with the potential to decimate poultry populations all over the world and cause enormous economic losses. Distinct NDV genotypes are currently causing outbreaks worldwide. Due to the high genetic diversity of NDV, virulent strains that may result in a lack of vaccine protection are more likely to emerge and ultimately cause larger epidemics with massive economic losses. Thus, a more comprehensive understanding of the circulating NDV genotypes is critical to reduce Newcastle disease (ND) burden. In this study, NDV strains were isolated and characterized from backyard poultry farms from Tanzania, East Africa in 2021. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) based on fusion (F) gene amplification was conducted on 79 cloacal or tracheal swabs collected from chickens during a suspected ND outbreak. Our results revealed that 50 samples out 79 (50/79; 63.3%) were NDV-positive. Sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of the selected NDV isolates showed that 39 isolates belonged to subgenotype VII.2 and only one isolate belonged to subgenotype XIII.1.1. Nucleotide sequences of the NDV F genes from Tanzania were closely related to recent NDV isolates circulating in southern Africa, suggesting that subgenotype VII.2 is the predominant subgenotype throughout Tanzania and southern Africa. Our data confirm the circulation of two NDV subgenotypes in Tanzania, providing important information to design genotype-matched vaccines and to aid ND surveillance. Furthermore, these results highlight the possibility of the spread and emergence of new NDV subgenotypes with the potential of causing future ND epizootics.
  • A large screen identifies beta-lactam antibiotics which can be repurposed to target the syphilis agent
    Hayes, Kathryn A.; Dressler, Jules M.; Norris, Steven J.; Edmondson, Diane G.; Jutras, Brandon L. (Springer Nature, 2023)
    Syphilis, caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum subsp. pallidum (hereafter called T. pallidum), is re-emerging as a worldwide sexually transmitted infection. A single intramuscular dose of benzathine penicillin G is the preferred syphilis treatment option. Both supply shortage concerns and the potential for acquired antibiotic resistance further the need to broaden the repertoire of syphilis therapeutics. We reasoned that other β-lactams may be equally or more effective at targeting the disease-causing agent, Treponema pallidum, but have yet to be discovered due to a previous lack of a continuous in vitro culture system. Recent technical advances with respect to in vitro T. pallidum propagation allowed us to conduct a high-throughput screen of almost 100 β-lactams. Using several molecular and cellular approaches that we developed or adapted, we identified and confirmed the efficacy of several β-lactams that were similar to or outperformed the current standard, benzathine penicillin G. These options are either currently used to treat bacterial infections or are synthetic derivatives of naturally occurring compounds. Our studies not only identified additional potential therapeutics in the resolution of syphilis, but provide techniques to study the complex biology of T. pallidum— a spirochete that has plagued human health for centuries.
  • Recent Population Dynamics of Japanese Encephalitis Virus
    Xu, Jinpeng; Wahaab, Abdul; Khan, Sawar; Nawaz, Mohsin; Anwar, Muhammad Naveed; Liu, Ke; Wei, Jianchao; Hameed, Muddassar; Ma, Zhiyong (MDPI, 2023-06-02)
    Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) causes acute viral encephalitis in humans and reproductive disorders in pigs. JEV emerged during the 1870s in Japan, and since that time, JEV has been transmitted exclusively throughout Asia, according to known reporting and sequencing records. A recent JEV outbreak occurred in Australia, affecting commercial piggeries across different temperate southern Australian states, and causing confirmed infections in humans. A total of 47 human cases and 7 deaths were reported. The recent evolving situation of JEV needs to be reported due to its continuous circulation in endemic regions and spread to non-endemics areas. Here, we reconstructed the phylogeny and population dynamics of JEV using recent JEV isolates for the future perception of disease spread. Phylogenetic analysis shows the most recent common ancestor occurred about 2993 years ago (YA) (95% Highest posterior density (HPD), 2433 to 3569). Our results of the Bayesian skyline plot (BSP) demonstrates that JEV demography lacks fluctuations for the last two decades, but it shows that JEV genetic diversity has increased during the last ten years. This indicates the potential JEV replication in the reservoir host, which is helping it to maintain its genetic diversity and to continue its dispersal into non-endemic areas. The continuous spread in Asia and recent detection from Australia further support these findings. Therefore, an enhanced surveillance system is needed along with precautionary measures such as regular vaccination and mosquito control to avoid future JEV outbreaks.
  • The influence of SARS-CoV-2 infection on expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes and transporters in a hACE2 murine model
    Deshpande, Kiran; Lange, Keith R.; Stone, William B.; Yohn, Christine; Schlesinger, Naomi; Kagan, Leonid; Auguste, Albert J.; Firestein, Bonnie L.; Brunetti, Luigi (Wiley, 2023-06)
    Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and the resulting Coronavirus disease 2019 emerged in late 2019 and is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. A hallmark of severe COVID-19 is exaggerated systemic inflammation, regarded as a "cytokine storm," which contributes to the damage of various organs, primarily the lungs. The inflammation associated with some viral illnesses is known to alter the expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes and transporters. These alterations can lead to modifications in drug exposure and the processing of various endogenous compounds. Here, we provide evidence to support changes in the mitochondrial ribonucleic acid expression of a subset of drug transporters (84 transporters) in the liver, kidneys, and lungs and metabolizing enzymes (84 enzymes) in the liver in a humanized angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor mouse model. Specifically, three drug transporters (Abca3, Slc7a8, Tap1) and the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 were upregulated in the lungs of SARS-CoV-2 infected mice. We also found significant downregulation of drug transporters responsible for the movement of xenobiotics in the liver and kidney. Additionally, expression of cytochrome P-450 2f2 which is known to metabolize some pulmonary toxicants, was significantly decreased in the liver of infected mice. The significance of these findings requires further exploration. Our results suggest that further research should emphasize altered drug disposition when investigating therapeutic compounds, whether re-purposed or new chemical entities, in other animal models and ultimately in individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, the influence and impact of these changes on the processing of endogenous compounds also require further investigation.
  • Spatiotemporal and meteorological relationships in dengue transmission in the Dominican Republic, 2015–2019
    Robert, Michael A.; Rodrigues, Helena S.; Herrera, Demian; de Mata Donado Campos, Juan; Morilla, Fernando; Del Águila Mejía, Javier; Guardado, María E.; Skewes, Ronald; Colomé-Hidalgo, Manuel (2023-06-02)
    Dengue has broadened its global distribution substantially in the past two decades, and many endemic areas are experiencing increases in incidence. The Dominican Republic recently experienced its two largest outbreaks to date with 16,836 reported cases in 2015 and 20,123 reported cases in 2019. With continued increases in dengue transmission, developing tools to better prepare healthcare systems and mosquito control agencies is of critical importance. Before such tools can be developed, however, we must first better understand potential drivers of dengue transmission. To that end, we focus in this paper on determining relationships between climate variables and dengue transmission with an emphasis on eight provinces and the capital city of the Dominican Republic in the period 2015–2019. We present summary statistics for dengue cases, temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity in this period, and we conduct an analysis of correlated lags between climate variables and dengue cases as well as correlated lags among dengue cases in each of the nine locations. We find that the southwestern province of Barahona had the largest dengue incidence in both 2015 and 2019. Among all climate variables considered, lags between relative humidity variables and dengue cases were the most frequently correlated. We found that most locations had significant correlations with cases in other locations at lags of zero weeks. These results can be used to improve predictive models of dengue transmission in the country.
  • Rift Valley fever virus Gn V5-epitope tagged virus enables identification of UBR4 as a Gn interacting protein that facilitates Rift Valley fever virus production
    Bracci, Nicole; de la Fuente, Cynthia; Saleem, Sahar; Pinkham, Chelsea; Narayanan, Aarthi; Garcia-Sastre, Adolfo; Balaraman, Velmurugan; Richt, Juergen A.; Wilson, William; Kehn-Hall, Kylene (Academic Press, 2022-02)
    Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an arbovirus that was first reported in the Rift Valley of Kenya which causes significant disease in humans and livestock. RVFV is a tri-segmented, negative-sense RNA virus consisting of a L, M, and S segments with the M segment encoding the glycoproteins Gn and Gc. Host factors that interact with Gn are largely unknown. To this end, two viruses containing an epitope tag (V5) on the Gn protein in position 105 or 229 (V5Gn105 and V5Gn229) were generated using the RVFV MP-12 vaccine strain as a backbone. The V5-tag insertion minimally impacted Gn functionality as measured by replication kinetics, Gn localization, and antibody neutralization assays. A proteomics-based approach was used to identify novel Gn-binding host proteins, including the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase, UBR4. Depletion of UBR4 resulted in a significant decrease in RVFV titers and a reduction in viral RNA production.