ZIKA virus infection causes persistent chorioretinal lesions

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2018 May 25;7(1):96. doi: 10.1038/s41426-018-0096-z.


Zika-infected patients can have eye involvement ranging from mild conjunctivitis to severe chorioretinal lesions, however the possible long-term sequelae of infection and timeline to recovery remain unknown. Here we describe the partial recovery of chorioretinal lesions in an immunocompetent patient diagnosed with bilateral posterior uveitis associated with Zika infection and show that some lesions resolved with focal atrophy evident as pigmentary changes on funduscopy. To better understand the progression of the lesions and correlate the changes in fundus imaging with local viral load, immune responses, and retinal damage, we developed a symptomatic mouse model of ocular Zika virus infection. Imaging of the fundus revealed multiple hypopigmentary patches indicative of chorioretinal degeneration as well as thinning of the retina that mirror the lesions in patients. Microscopically, the virus primarily infected the optic nerve, retinal ganglion cells, and inner nuclear layer cells, showing thinning of the outer plexiform layer. During acute infection, the eyes showed retinal layer disorganization, retinitis, vitritis, and focal choroiditis, with mild cellular infiltration and increased expression of tumor necrosis factor, interferon-γ, granzyme B, and perforin. Focal areas of gliosis and retinal degeneration persisted 60 dpi. The model recapitulates features of ZIKA infections in patients and should help elucidate the mechanisms underlying the damage to the eyes and aid in the development of effective therapeutics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Chorioretinitis / virology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Viral / virology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Optic Nerve / virology
  • Retina / virology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / virology
  • Uveitis, Posterior / virology*
  • Zika Virus / isolation & purification*
  • Zika Virus Infection / pathology*