Emergence of Toscana virus in the mediterranean area

World J Virol. 2012 Oct 12;1(5):135-41. doi: 10.5501/wjv.v1.i5.135.


Toscana virus (TOSV) is an arthropod-borne virus, identified in 1971, from Phlebotomus perniciosus and Phlebotomus perfiliewi in central Italy. TOSV belongs to the Phlebovirus genus within the Bunyaviridae family. As other bunyaviruses, the genome of TOSV consists of 3 segments (S for small, M for Medium, and L for Large) respectively encoding non structural and capsid proteins, envelope structural proteins, and the viral RNA-dependant RNA-polymerase. It is transmitted by sand flies. Therefore its distribution is dictated by that of the arthropod vectors, and virus circulation peaks during summertime when sandfly populations are active. Here, we reviewed the epidemiology of TOSV in the old world. First evidence of its pathogenicity for humans, specifically its propensity to cause central nervous system (CNS) infections such as meningitis and encephalitis, was reported in central Italy. After 2000, it was recognized that TOSV had a much larger geographic distribution than initially believed, and was present in most of the Western European countries located on the northern border of the Mediterranean Sea (Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, Croatia) as well as eastern countries such as Cyprus and Turkey. In the countries where TOSV is present, it is among the three most prevalent viruses in meningitis during the warm seasons, together with enteroviruses and herpesviruses. Up to now, epidemiological data concerning Northern Africa and other countries located south of the Mediterranean are scarce. TOSV must be considered an emerging pathogen. Despite the important role played by TOSV in CNS infections, it remains a neglected agent and is rarely considered by physicians in diagnostic algorithms of CNS infections and febrile illness during the warm season, probably because of the lack of information.

Keywords: Arthropod-borne; Emergence; Europe; Fever; Meningitis; Phlebotomus; Phlebovirus; Sandfly; Toscana virus; Zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Review