Chapter

Arenaviruses

Colin R. Howard

in Oxford Textbook of Zoonoses

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780198570028
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199697823 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780198570028.003.0032

Series: Oxford Textbooks

Arenaviruses

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There are few groups of viral zoonoses that have attracted such widespread publicity as the arenaviruses, particularly during the 1960’s and 1970’s when Lassa emerged as a major cause of haemorrhagic disease in West Africa. More than any other zoonoses, members of the family are used extensively for the study of virus-host relationships. Thus the study of this unique group of enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses has been pursued for two quite separate reasons. First, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCM) has been used as a model of persistent virus infections for over half a century; its study has contributed, and continues to contribute, a number of cardinal concepts to our present understanding of immunology. LCM virus remains the prototype of the Arenaviridae and is a common infection of laboratory mice, rats and hamsters. Once thought rare in humans there is now increasing evidence of LCM virus being implicated in renal disease and as a complication in organ transplantation. Second, certain arenaviruses cause severe haemorrhagic diseases in man, notably Lassa fever in Africa, Argentine and Bolivian haemorrhagic fevers in South America, Guaranito infection in Venezuela and Chaparé virus in Bolivia. The latter is a prime example for the need of ever-continuing vigilance for the emergence of new viral diseases; over the past few years several new arenaviruses have been reported as implicated with severe human disease and indeed the number of new arenaviruses discovered since the last edition of this book have increased the size of this virus family significantly.

In common with LCM, the natural reservoir of these infections is a limited number of rodent species (Howard, 1986). Although the initial isolates from South America were at first erroneously designated as newly defined arboviruses, there is no evidence to implicate arthropod transmission for any arenavirus. However, similar methods of isolation and the necessity of trapping small animals have meant that the majority of arenaviruses have been isolated by workers in the arbovirus field. A good example of this is Guaranito virus that emerged during investigation of a dengue virus outbreak in Venezuela (Salas et al. 1991).

There is an interesting spectrum of pathological processes among these viruses. All the evidence so far available suggests that the morbidity of Lassa fever and South American haemorrhagic fevers due to arenavirus infection results from the direct cytopathic action of these agents. This is in sharp contrast to the immunopathological basis of ‘classic’ lymphocytic choriomeningitis disease seen in adult mice infected with LCM virus and the use of this system for elucidating the phenomenon of H2-restriction of the host cytotoxic T cell response (Zinkernagel and Doherty 1979). Despite the utility of this experimental model for dissecting the nature of the immune response to virus infection and the growing interest in arenaviruses of rodents, there remains much to be done to elucidate the pathogenesis of these infections in humans.

Chapter.  10899 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Infectious Diseases ; Epidemiology

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