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J Infect Dis. 2004 Feb 15;189(4):669-76. Epub 2004 Feb 4.

Experimental infection of rhesus macaques with West Nile virus: level and duration of viremia and kinetics of the antibody response after infection.

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Division of Veterinary Medicine, Tulane National Primate Research Center, Tulane University, Covington, Louisiana, USA.


Reports of transfusion-associated cases of West Nile virus (WNV) infection indicate the need for sensitive screening methods to identify WNV-infected blood products. We experimentally infected 5 rhesus macaques with WNV, to determine the level and duration of viremia, the kinetics of the humoral immune response, and the sensitivity of various assay systems for detecting WNV in blood. All macaques developed subclinical infections with low levels of viremia; nested reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction was the most sensitive method for detecting virus or viral RNA in blood. Specific WNV antibodies appeared during the second week of infection; the results of an IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay became positive on the ninth or tenth day after infection, followed in 1-2 days by hemagglutination-inhibiting and neutralizing antibodies. Our results suggest that both nucleic acid and serological testing may be needed to determine exposure to WNV and to identify potentially infected blood donors.

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