Pathology and pathogenesis of eurasian blackbirds (Turdus merula) naturally infected with usutu virus

Giuseppe Giglia, Gianfilippo Agliani, Bas B. Oude Munnink, Reina Sikkema, Maria Teresa Mandara, Elvio Lepri, Marja Kik, Jooske Ijzer, Jolianne M. Rijks, Christine Fast, Marion P.G. Koopmans, Monique H. Verheije, Andrea Gröne, Chantal B.E.M. Reusken, Judith M.A. van den Brand*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Usutu virus (USUV) is a mosquito-borne zoonotic flavivirus. Despite its continuous circulation in Europe, knowledge on the pathology, cellular and tissue tropism and pathogenetic potential of different circulating viral lineages is still fragmentary. Here, macroscopic and micro-scopic evaluations are performed in association with the study of cell and tissue tropism and com-parison of lesion severity of two circulating virus lineages (Europe 3; Africa 3) in 160 Eurasian blackbirds (Turdus merula) in the Netherlands. Results confirm hepatosplenomegaly, coagulative necro-sis and lymphoplasmacytic inflammation as major patterns of lesions and, for the first time, vascu-litis as a novel virus-associated lesion. A USUV and Plasmodium spp. co-infection was commonly identified. The virus was associated with lesions by immunohistochemistry and was reported most commonly in endothelial cells and blood circulating and tissue mononucleated cells, suggesting them as a major route of entry and spread. A tropism for mononuclear phagocytes cells was further supported by viral labeling in multinucleated giant cells. The involvement of ganglionic neurons and epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract suggests a possible role of oral transmission, while the involvement of feather follicle shafts and bulbs suggests their use as a diagnostic sample for live bird testing. Finally, results suggest similar pathogenicity for the two circulating lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1481
JournalViruses
Volume13
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The study was performed through the activities of the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre and so, the study was co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Utrecht University (projects numbers; 2016: 1300022600; 2017: 1300024982; 2018: 1300027028). This work has received funding from the ZonMW Eco-Alert project (grant number 50-52200-98-026). This publication is part of the project ‘Preparing for Vector-Borne Virus Outbreaks in a Changing World: a One Health Approach’ (NWA.1160.1S.210), which is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

Funding Information:
The study was performed through the activities of the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre and so, the study was co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Utrecht University (projects numbers; 2016: 1300022600; 2017: 1300024982; 2018: 1300027028). This work has received funding from the ZonMW Eco-Alert project (grant number 50-52200-98-026). This publication is part of the project ?Preparing for Vector-Borne Virus Outbreaks in a Changing World: a One Health Approach? (NWA.1160.1S.210), which is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). We kindly thank Ute Ziegler from the FLI in Germany for providing us with the anti USUV antibody U433. The authors also thank Tim van Olmen, Liesbeth Kruijswijk-Broos and Alinda Berends for their technical support in the lab.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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