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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 19;101(42):15190-5. Epub 2004 Oct 11.

The host response to smallpox: analysis of the gene expression program in peripheral blood cells in a nonhuman primate model.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Abstract

Smallpox has played an unparalleled role in human history and remains a significant potential threat to public health. Despite the historical significance of this disease, we know little about the underlying pathophysiology or the virulence mechanisms of the causative agent, variola virus. To improve our understanding of variola pathogenesis and variola-host interactions, we examined the molecular and cellular features of hemorrhagic smallpox in cynomolgus macaques. We used cDNA microarrays to analyze host gene expression patterns in sequential blood samples from each of 22 infected animals. Variola infection elicited striking and temporally coordinated patterns of gene expression in peripheral blood. Of particular interest were features that appear to represent an IFN response, cell proliferation, immunoglobulin gene expression, viral dose-dependent gene expression patterns, and viral modulation of the host immune response. The virtual absence of a tumor necrosis factor alpha/NF-kappaB-activated transcriptional program in the face of an overwhelming systemic infection suggests that variola gene products may ablate this response. These results provide a detailed picture of the host transcriptional response during smallpox infection, and may help guide the development of diagnostic, therapeutic, and prophylactic strategies.

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