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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44682. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044682. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Impaired virus clearance, compromised immune response and increased mortality in type 2 diabetic mice infected with West Nile virus.

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Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.


Clinicoepidemiological data suggest that type 2 diabetes is associated with increased risk of West Nile virus encephalitis (WNVE). However, no experimental studies have elucidated the role of diabetes in WNV neuropathogenesis. Herein, we employed the db/db mouse model to understand WNV immunopathogenesis in diabetics. Nine-week old C57BL/6 WT and db/db mice were inoculated with WNV and mortality, virus burden in the periphery and brain, and antiviral defense responses were analyzed. db/db mice were highly susceptible to WNV disease, exhibited increased tissue tropism and mortality than the wild-type mice, and were unable to clear the infection. Increased and sustained WNV replication was observed in the serum, peripheral tissues and brain of db/db mice, and heightened virus replication in the periphery was correlated with enhanced neuroinvasion and replication of WNV in the brain. WNV infection in db/db mice was associated with enhanced inflammatory response and compromised antiviral immune response characterized by delayed induction of IFN-α, and significantly reduced concentrations of WNV-specific IgM and IgG antibodies. The compromised immune response in db/db mice correlated with increased viremia. These data suggest that delayed immune response coupled with failure to clear the virus leads to increased mortality in db/db mice. In conclusion, this study provides unique mechanistic insight into the immunopathogenesis of WNVE observed in diabetics and can be used to develop therapeutics for the management of WNVE among diabetic patients.

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