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J Immunol. 2004 Mar 1;172(5):2861-9.

Lassa virus infection of human dendritic cells and macrophages is productive but fails to activate cells.

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  • 1Unité de Biologie des Infections Virales Emergentes, Centre de Recherche Mérieux-Pasteur à Lyon, Laboratoire P4-Jean Mérieux, Lyon, France.


Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic fever caused by Lassa virus (LV), an old-world Arenavirus. Little is known about the immune responses that occur during the disease, but protection seems to be linked to the induction of cellular responses specific for viral glycoproteins. Conversely, severe Lassa fever may be associated with immunosuppression. We studied the infection of human dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages (MP) by LV. Both these cell types are susceptible to LV infection. Viral nucleoprotein was detected in DC and MP, and high and moderate viral titers were obtained with culture supernatants of DC and MP, respectively. LV did not induce apoptosis in DC and MP. These cells were not activated by LV infection. No change was observed in the expression of surface molecules involved in activation, costimulation, adhesion, and Ag presentation following LV infection, or in the functional properties of DC. Inflammatory cytokine production was not detected at the mRNA or protein level after LV infection of DC and MP. Thus, MP, and particularly DC, are crucial targets for LV and are probably involved in the early replication of LV from the initial site of infection. The lack of activation and maturation of cells following infection may be associated with the immunosuppression observed in severe LV infection.

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