In the past decade, there has been an upsurge in the number of newly described insect-specific flaviviruses isolated pan-globally. We recently described the isolation of a novel flavivirus (tentatively designated ‘Nhumirim virus’; NHUV) that represents an example of a unique subset of apparently insect-specific viruses that phylogenetically affiliate with dual-host mosquito-borne flaviviruses despite appearing to be limited to replication in mosquito cells. We characterized the in vitro growth potential and 39 untranslated region (UTR) sequence homology with alternative flaviviruses, and evaluated the virus’s capacity to suppress replication of representative Culex spp.-vectored pathogenic flaviviruses in mosquito cells. Only mosquito cell lines were found to support NHUV replication, further reinforcing the insect-specific phenotype of this virus. Analysis of the sequence and predicted RNA secondary structures of the 39 UTR indicated NHUV to be most similar to viruses within the yellow fever serogroup and Japanese encephalitis serogroup, and viruses in the tick-borne flavivirus clade. NHUV was found to share the fewest conserved sequence elements when compared with traditional insect-specific flaviviruses. This suggests that, despite apparently being insect specific, this virus probably diverged from an ancestral mosquito-borne flavivirus. Co-infection experiments indicated that prior or concurrent infection of mosquito cells with NHUV resulted in a significant reduction in virus production of West Nile virus (WNV), St Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) and Japanese encephalitis virus. The inhibitory effect was most effective against WNV and SLEV with over a 106-fold and 104-fold reduction in peak titres, respectively.
ASJC Scopus subject areas