Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a mosquito-borne RNA virus of the genus Alphavirus that is responsible for a significant disease burden in Central and South America through sporadic outbreaks into human and equid populations. For humans, 2 to 4% of cases are associated with encephalitis, and there is an overall case mortality rate of approximately 1%. In mice, replication of the virus within neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) leads to paralyzing, invariably lethal encephalomyelitis. However, mice infected with certain attenuated mutants of the virus are able to control the infection within the CNS and recover. To better define what role T cell responses might be playing in this process, we infected B cell-deficient μMT mice with a VEEV mutant that induces mild, sublethal illness in immune competent mice. Infected μMT mice rapidly developed the clinical signs of severe paralyzing encephalomyelitis but were eventually able to control the infection and recover fully from clinical illness. Recovery in this system was T cell dependent and associated with a dramatic reduction in viral titers within the CNS, followed by viral persistence in the brain. Further comparison of the relative roles of T cell subpopulations within this system revealed that CD4+ T cells were better producers of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) than CD8+ T cells and were more effective at controlling VEEV within the CNS. Overall, these results suggest that T cells, especially CD4+ T cells, can successfully control VEEV infection within the CNS and facilitate recovery from a severe viral encephalomyelitis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science