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Arch Virol Suppl. 2004;(18):161-70.

Neurovirulence and host factors in flavivirus encephalitis--evidence from clinical epidemiology.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Neurology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile virus (WNV) provide some of the most important examples of emerging zoonotic viral encephalitides. For these flaviviruses, only a small proportion of those infected develop clinical features, and these may range from a non-specific flu-like illness to a severe fatal meningoencephalitis, often with Parkinsonian features, or a poliomyelitis-like flaccid paralysis. The factors governing the clinical presentations, and outcome of flavivirus infections are poorly understood, but studies have looked at viral virulence determinants and the host immune response. Previous studies on JEV have suggested that the distribution of the four genotypes across Asia may relate to the differing clinical epidemiology (epidemic disease in the north, endemic disease in the south). However, new data based on the complete nucleotide sequence of a virus representing one of the oldest lineages, and phylogenetic analyses of all JEV strains for which genetic data are available, suggest that the distribution is best explained in terms of the virus' origin in the Indonesia-Malaysia region (where all genotypes have been found), and the spread of the more recent genotypes to new geographical areas. Clinical studies have shown that innate immunity, as manifested by interferon alpha levels, is important in JEV and other flaviviruses, but treatment with interferon alpha did not improve the outcome. A failure of the humoral immune response, is associated with death from encephalitis caused by JEV and WNV. Cellular immunity has been less well characterized, but CD8+ and CD4+ T cells are thought to be important.

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