Cross-reactivity among alphaviruses provides insight into viral emergence and novel defense strategies


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Virginia Tech


Alphaviruses are a group of medically relevant arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) belonging to the Togaviridae family that are maintained by mosquito vectors. These zoonotic viruses are clustered into two groups: New World and Old World, depending on their geographical origin/distribution and clinical manifestations. Both of these groups cause disease symptoms of an acute febrile illness; however, each group has a distinct, hallmark disease symptom; New World alphaviruses, such as Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses (EEEV, WEEV, and VEEV, respectively), present with severe encephalitis while Old World alphaviruses, such as Sindbis, chikungunya, and Mayaro viruses (SINV, CHIKV, and MAYV, respectively) present with an incapacitating polyarthralgia that can persist for years following initial infection. To date, the most effective means of controlling these arboviral infections is through mosquito control programs. However, these programs have crucial limitations in their effectiveness; therefore, novel approaches are necessary to control the spread of these crippling pathogens and lessen their disease burden. Given the close phylogenetic and antigenic relationship between MAYV and CHIKV, we hypothesized that prior CHIKV immunity may affect the outcome of MAYV disease and/or limit its emergence in humans. Our work has shown that anti-CHIKV neutralizing antibodies can provide cross-protective immunity against MAYV disease. Alongside these studies, we have characterized the potency of a camelid-derived single-domain antibody (sdAb) that neutralizes a breadth of alphaviruses, including CHIKV and MAYV. With these data, we have designed and generated transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that express two anti-CHIKV sdAbs to target infection, dissemination, and transmission of MAYV and CHIKV within this deadly vector. These findings are particularly significant because they highlight the ability to co-target two emerging alphaviruses that are crippling public health and obliterating quality of life around the globe within a single defense strategy.



alphavirus, Mayaro virus, chikungunya virus, cross-protection, mosquito, Aedes aegypti, vector competence, transgenic, cross-reactivity, single-domain antibody