Recent Findings

1. Unusual presentation of life-threatening Toscana virus meningoencephalitis.
(Baldelli F, Ciufolini MG, Francisci D, Marchi A, Venturi G, Fiorentini C, Luchetta ML, Bruto L, Pauluzzi S.
Clinical Infectious Diseases;38:515-520. 2004)

Recently, two cases of an atypical clinical presentation of Tuscana Virus infection were identified. Tuscana Virus is a member of the genus Phlebovirus (Sandfly fever group) along with Sicilian and Naples viruses. It is neurotropic and normally causes asceptic meningitis or mild meningoencephalitis that lasts for 7-10 days. Two recent cases, a 19 year old girl and her 16 year old brother, presented with atypical symptoms because the infection lead to life-threatening meningoencephalitis. The disease symptoms were characterized by stiff neck, deep coma, maculopapular rash, diffuse lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, renal involvement, tendency to bleed, testicular involvement, and diffuse intravascular coagulation. Neurologial sequela were also present in the patients.

2. Bovine aortic endothelial cells are susceptible to hantavirus infection; a new aspect in hantavirus ecology. (Muranyi W, Kehm R, Bahr U, Muller S, Handermann M, Darai G, Zeier M. Virology. 2004 Jan 5;318(1):112-22.)

A recent study showed that bovine aortic endothelial cells could be infected by a hantavirus (Puumula virus). Twelve weeks after initial infection, Puumula nucleocapsid protein was found in 95% of aortic cells infected with the virus. A previous study by Danes et al. showed that 2% of examined cattle had antibodies to hantavirus. This study was executed to clarify the relationship. The results raise new questions on hantavirus host range, species specificity, reservoirs, transmission, and ecology.

3. Bunyamwera bunyavirus RNA synthesis requires cooperation of 3'- and 5'-terminal sequences. (Barr JN, Wertz GW. Journal of Virology, February 2004, p. 1129-1138, Vol. 78, No. 3)

The Bunyamwera virus genome, like all negative sense RNA virus genomes, exhibits nucleotide complementarity between the 3' and 5' ends of its terminal non-translating regions. For Bunyamwera, this pattern is present in all three segments of the genome. This study saught to determine whether this complementarity in all three segments was the result of a functional requirement for RNA synthesis, or whether it was due to genomic and anti-genomic non-translating regions having similar functions requiring sequence conservation. The results indicated that cooperation between the 3' and 5' non-translating regions through base pairing interactions was a requirement for RNA synthesis.

4. Genetic similarity of Puumala viruses found in Finland and western Siberia and of the mitochondrial DNA of their rodent hosts suggests a common evolutionary origin. (Dekonenko A, Yakimenko V, Ivanov A, Morozov V, Nikitin P, Khasanova S, Dzagurova T, Tkachenko E, Schmaljohn C.
Infection, Genetics and Evolution Volume 3, Issue 4 , November 2003, Pages 245-257)

This study showed that 18/678 small mammals (all 18 were of the Clethrionomys species) trapped in Siberia were antigen positive for Puumula virus. The viral strain was similar to hantavirus strains isolated from Clethrionomys glareolus rodents from Finland. These findings suggest that Puumula viruses as well as their rodent hosts share a common evolutionary origin.

5. Induction of severe disease in hamsters by two sandfly fever group viruses, Punta toro and Gabek Forest (Phlebovirus, Bunyaviridae), similar to that caused by Rift Valley fever virus. (Fisher AF, Tesh RB, Tonry J, Guzman H, Liu D, Xiao SY. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 69(3), 2003, pp. 269-276.)

Adult golden hamsters were inoculated with two Sandfly fever group viruses, Punta Toro and Gabek Forest. They subsequently developed a fulminanting illness characterized by hepatic and splenic necrosis and interstitial pneumonitis. The illness was fatal. Necropsy and histopathological examination showed changes in multiple organs similar to those found in Rift Valley Fever. This study thus demonstrated that the hamster-phlebovirus model could be used as an alternative animal model for Rift Valley Fever.

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