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J Virol. 2012 Apr;86(7):3626-34. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06264-11. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Experimental infection of Cynomolgus Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) with human varicella-zoster virus.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a member of the alphaherpesvirus family and the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles. To determine the utility of cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) as a nonhuman primate model to evaluate VZV-based simian immunodeficiency virus/human immunodeficiency virus (SIV/HIV) vaccines, we experimentally inoculated 10 animals with the parental Oka (Oka-P) strain of VZV derived from MeWo or Telo-RF cells. VZV DNA could be detected in the lungs as late as 4 days postinfection, with replicating virus detected by shell vial culture assay in one case. Infection did not result in any overt clinical symptoms but was characterized by humoral and cell-mediated immunity in a time frame and at a magnitude similar to those observed following VZV vaccination in humans. The cell line source of VZV inoculum influenced both the magnitude and polyfunctionality of cell-mediated immunity. Animals mounted a vigorous anamnestic antibody response following a second inoculation 12 weeks later. Inoculations resulted in transient increases in CD4(+) T-cell activation and proliferation, as well as a sustained increase in CD4(+) T cells coexpressing CCR5 and α4β7 integrin. In contrast to previous failed attempts to successfully utilize attenuated VZV-Oka as an SIV vaccine vector in rhesus macaques due to suboptimal infectivity and cellular immunogenicity, the ability to infect cynomolgus macaques with Oka-P VZV should provide a valuable tool for evaluating VZV-vectored SIV/HIV vaccines.

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