Nutritional status impacts dengue virus infection in mice
Background Dengue virus (DENV) is estimated to infect 390 million people annually. However, few host factors that alter disease severity are known. Malnutrition, defined as both over- and undernutrition, is a growing problem worldwide and has long been linked to dengue disease severity by epidemiological and anecdotal observations. Accordingly, we sought to establish a mouse model to assess the impact of nutritional status on DENV disease severity.
Results Using transiently immunocompromised mice, we established a model of mild dengue disease with measurable viremia. We then applied it to study the effects of healthy weight, obese, and low-protein diets representing normal, over-, and undernutrition, respectively. Upon infection with DENV serotype 2, obese mice experienced more severe morbidity in the form of weight loss and thrombocytopenia compared to healthy weight groups. Additionally, obesity altered cytokine expression following DENV infection. Although low protein-fed mice did not lose significant weight after DENV2 infection, they also experienced a reduction in platelets as well as increased spleen pathology and viral titers.
Conclusions Our results indicate that obese or undernourished mice incur greater disease severity after DENV infection. These studies establish a role for nutritional status in DENV disease severity.