The recent emergence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIKV) in the Americas has become a global public health concern. We describe a series of experimental infections designed to investigate whether animals within certain taxonomic groups in North America have the potential to serve as ZIKV amplifying or maintenance hosts. Species investigated included armadillos, cottontail rabbits, goats, mink, chickens, pigeons, ground hogs, deer mice, cattle, raccoons, ducks, Syrian Golden hamsters, garter snakes, leopard frogs, house sparrows, and pigs. Infectious virus was isolated from blood only in frogs and armadillos; however, the magnitude of viremia was low. In addition, neutralizing antibodies were detected after infection in goats, rabbits, ducks, frogs, and pigs. This study indicates that the animals tested to date are unlikely to act as animal reservoirs for ZIKV, but that rabbits and pigs could potentially serve as sentinel species. Understanding the transmission cycle and maintenance of ZIKV in animals will help in developing effective surveillance programs and preventative measures for future outbreaks.
Keywords: North American animals; Zika virus; animal reservoirs; immunity; viremia.