Dynamics of West Nile Virus Persistence in House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)

Sarah S. Wheeler, Meighan P. Vineyard, Leslie Woods, William Reisen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


West Nile Virus (WNV) is now endemic throughout North America, with annual recurrence dependent upon successful overwintering when cold temperatures drive mosquito vectors into inactivity and halt transmission. To investigate whether avian hosts may serve as an overwintering mechanism, groups of eight to ten House Sparrows were experimentally infected with a WN02 genotype of WNV and then held until necropsy at 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, or 18 weeks post-infection (pi) when they were assessed for the presence of persistent infection. Blood was collected from all remaining birds every two weeks pi, and sera tested for WNV RNA and WNV neutralizing antibodies. West Nile virus RNA was present in the sera of some birds up to 7 weeks pi and all birds retained neutralizing antibodies throughout the experiment. The detection of persistently infected birds decreased with time, from 100% (n = 13) positive at 3 weeks post-infection (pi) to 12.5% (n = 8) at 18 weeks pi. Infectious virus was isolated from the spleens of birds necropsied at 3, 5, 7 and 12 weeks pi. The current study confirmed previous reports of infectious WNV persistence in avian hosts, and further characterized the temporal nature of these infections. Although these persistent infections supported the hypothesis that infected birds may serve as an overwintering mechanism, mosquito-infectious recrudescent viremias have yet to be demonstrated thereby providing proof of principle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1860
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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