Judith van den Brand, Barry Rockx
Usutu virus (USUV) and West Nile virus (WNV) are responsible for multiple severe outbreaks of disease in birds, in various European countries, including the Netherlands. In Europe, data obtained from surveillance show that many bird species, belonging to different orders, can be infected by USUV and WNV. Passerine birds seem to be particularly susceptible to USUV infection, showing high mortality with lesions development in multiple organs. Reports from pathological examination of wild birds localize lesions, mainly in the liver, the spleen, the heart and the brain. Both the lesions and the confirmation of the presence of the virus antigen by immunohistochemistry suggest these tissues are the principal target organs for these flaviviruses. Very little is known about their pathogenesis. The interaction of the virus with the host is unknown as well as the distribution of the receptors. Also, the mechanisms of cellular damage for which data in literature are mostly from studies in cell cultures and mouse models, and a good characterization of lesions and an overview of target organs are lacking.
Through the experimental infection of different bird species and an accurate evaluation of disease progression from clinical signs to development of lesions in different organs we aim to better characterize the lesions and the pathogenesis of Usutu virus and West Nile virus.
Research questions / objectives