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Identification of Animal Hosts of Fort Sherman Virus, a New World Zoonotic Orthobunyavirus


Identification of Animal Hosts of Fort Sherman Virus, a New World Zoonotic Orthobunyavirus

Edmilson F de Oliveira Filho et al. Transbound Emerg Dis.


An orthobunyavirus termed Fort Sherman virus (FSV) was isolated in 1985 from a febrile US soldier in Panama, yet potential animal reservoirs remained unknown. We investigated sera from 192 clinically healthy peri-domestic animals sampled in northeastern Brazil during 2014-2018 by broadly reactive RT-PCR for orthobunyavirus RNA, including 50 cattle, 57 sheep, 35 goats and 50 horses. One horse sampled in 2018 was positive (0.5%; 95% CI, 0.01-3.2) at 6.2 × 103 viral RNA copies/mL. Genomic comparisons following virus isolation in Vero cells and deep sequencing revealed high identity of translated amino acid sequences between the new orthobunyavirus and the Panamanian FSV prototype (genes: L, 98.8%; M, 83.5%; S, 100%), suggesting these viruses are conspecific. Database comparisons revealed even higher genomic identity between the Brazilian FSV and taxonomically unassigned Argentinian mosquito- and horse-derived viruses sampled in 1965, 1982 and 2013 with only 1.1% maximum translated amino acid distances across viral genes, suggesting the Argentinian viruses were also distinct FSV strains. The Panamanian FSV strain was an M gene reassortant relative to all Southern American FSV strains, clustering phylogenetically with Cache Valley virus (CVV). Mean dN/dS ratios among FSV genes ranged from 0.03 to 0.07, compatible with strong purifying selection. FSV-specific neutralizing antibodies occurred at relatively high end-point titres in the range of 1:300 in 22.0% of horses (11 out of 50 animals), 8.0% of cattle (4/50 animals), 7.0% of sheep (4/57 animals) and 2.9% of goats (1/35 animals). High specificity of serologic testing was suggested by significantly higher overall FSV-specific compared to CVV- and Bunyamwera virus-specific end-point titres (p = .009), corroborating a broad vertebrate host range within peri-domestic animals. Growth kinetics using mosquito-, midge- and sandfly-derived cell lines suggested Aedes mosquitos as potential vectors. Our findings highlight the occurrence of FSV across a geographic range exceeding 7,000 km, surprising genomic conservation across a time span exceeding 50 years, M gene-based reassortment events, and the existence of multiple animal hosts of FSV.

Keywords: PCR; arbovirus; livestock; orthobunyavirus; reservoirs; serology; zoonosis.

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