Experimental infection of rhesus macaques and common marmosets with a European strain of West Nile virus

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2014 Apr 17;8(4):e2797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002797. eCollection 2014 Apr.


West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that infects humans and other mammals. In some cases WNV causes severe neurological disease. During recent years, outbreaks of WNV are increasing in worldwide distribution and novel genetic variants of the virus have been detected. Although a substantial amount of data exists on WNV infections in rodent models, little is known about early events during WNV infection in primates, including humans. To gain a deeper understanding of this process, we performed experimental infections of rhesus macaques and common marmosets with a virulent European WNV strain (WNV-Ita09) and monitored virological, hematological, and biochemical parameters. WNV-Ita09 productively infected both monkey species, with higher replication and wider tissue distribution in common marmosets compared to rhesus macaques. The animals in this study however, did not develop clinical signs of WNV disease, nor showed substantial deviations in clinical laboratory parameters. In both species, the virus induced a rapid CD56dimCD16bright natural killer response, followed by IgM and IgG antibody responses. The results of this study show that healthy rhesus macaques and common marmosets are promising animal models to study WNV-Ita09 infection. Both models may be particularly of use to evaluate potential vaccine candidates or to investigate WNV pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • CD56 Antigen / analysis
  • Callithrix
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Killer Cells, Natural / chemistry
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Receptors, IgG / analysis
  • West Nile Fever / pathology*
  • West Nile Fever / virology*
  • West Nile virus / growth & development


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • CD56 Antigen
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Receptors, IgG

Grants and funding

This study was funded by a BPRC institutional grant, and was supported by the European Community FP7 project WINGS (grant no. 261426). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.