Viral covert infections in invertebrates have been traditionally attributed to sublethal infections that were not able to establish an acute infection. Recent studies are revealing that, although true for some viruses, other viruses may follow the strategy of establishing covert or persistent infections without producing the death of the host. Recently, and due to the revolution in the sequencing technologies, a large number of viruses causing covert infections in all type of hosts have been identified. The beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is a worldwide pest that causes significant losses to agricultural and ornamental plant industries. In a previous project we used NGS to obtain a comprehensive transcriptome of the larval stage, revealing the presence of an important number of unigenes belonging to novel RNA viruses, most of them from the order Picornavirales. In order to characterize S. exigua viral complex, in this work we have completed the genomic sequences of two picorna-like viruses, and compared them to a SeIV1, a member of Iflaviridae previously described by our group. We performed additional studies to determine virus morphology, horizontal transmission, tissue and life stage distribution and abundance in the hosts. We discuss the role of virus persistent infections on insect populations.
Keywords: Covert infection; Iflavirus; Persistent infection; Picornavirales; RNA virus; Spodoptera exigua.
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