PLoS Pathog. 2022 Jun 13;18(6):e1009946. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1009946. Online ahead of print.
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) is a positively-stranded RNA arbovirus of the genus Alphavirus that causes encephalitis in humans. Cynomolgus macaques are a relevant model of the human disease caused by VEEV and are useful in exploring pathogenic mechanisms and the host response to VEEV infection. Macaques were exposed to small-particle aerosols containing virus derived from an infectious clone of VEEV strain INH-9813, a subtype IC strain isolated from a human infection. VEEV-exposed macaques developed a biphasic fever after infection similar to that seen in humans. Maximum temperature deviation correlated with the inhaled dose, but fever duration did not. Neurological signs, suggestive of virus penetration into the central nervous system (CNS), were predominantly seen in the second febrile period. Electroencephalography data indicated a statistically significant decrease in all power bands and circadian index during the second febrile period that returned to normal after fever resolved. Intracranial pressure increased late in the second febrile period. On day 6 post-infection macaques had high levels of MCP-1 and IP-10 chemokines in the CNS, as well as a marked increase of T lymphocytes and activated microglia. More than four weeks after infection, VEEV genomic RNA was found in the brain, cerebrospinal fluid and cervical lymph nodes. Pro-inflammatory cytokines & chemokines, infiltrating leukocytes and pathological changes were seen in the CNS tissues of macaques euthanized at these times. These data are consistent with persistence of virus replication and/or genomic RNA and potentially, inflammatory sequelae in the central nervous system after resolution of acute VEEV disease.