Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that is capable of causing encephalitic diseases in children. While humans can succumb to severe disease, the transmission cycle is maintained by viremic birds and pigs in endemic regions. Although JEV is regarded as a significant threat to the United States (U.S.), the susceptibility of domestic swine to JEV infection has not been evaluated. In this study, domestic pigs from North America were intravenously challenged with JEV to characterize the pathological outcomes. Systemic infection followed by the development of neutralizing antibodies were observed in all challenged animals. While most clinical signs were limited to nonspecific symptoms, virus dissemination and neuroinvasion was observed at the acute phase of infection. Detection of infectious viruses in nasal secretions suggest infected animals are likely to promote the vector-free transmission of JEV. Viral RNA present in tonsils at 28 days post infection demonstrates the likelihood of persistent infection. In summary, our findings indicate that domestic pigs can potentially become amplification hosts in the event of an introduction of JEV into the U.S. Vector-free transmission to immunologically naïve vertebrate hosts is also likely through nasal shedding of infectious viruses.
Park, S. L., Huang, Y. J. S., Lyons, A. C., Ayers, V. B., Hettenbach, S. M., McVey, D. S., … Vanlandingham, D. L. (2018). North American domestic pigs are susceptible to experimental infection with Japanese encephalitis virus. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-26208-8