Poxviruses and the evolution of host range and virulence

Sherry L. Haller, Chen Peng, Grant McFadden, Stefan Rothenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

85 Scopus citations

Abstract

Poxviruses as a group can infect a large number of animals. However, at the level of individual viruses, even closely related poxviruses display highly diverse host ranges and virulence. For example, variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, is human-specific and highly virulent only to humans, whereas related cowpox viruses naturally infect a broad spectrum of animals and only cause relatively mild disease in humans. The successful replication of poxviruses depends on their effective manipulation of the host antiviral responses, at the cellular-, tissue- and species-specific levels, which constitutes a molecular basis for differences in poxvirus host range and virulence. A number of poxvirus genes have been identified that possess host range function in experimental settings, and many of these host range genes target specific antiviral host pathways. Herein, we review the biology of poxviruses with a focus on host range, zoonotic infections, virulence, genomics and host range genes as well as the current knowledge about the function of poxvirus host range factors and how their interaction with the host innate immune system contributes to poxvirus host range and virulence. We further discuss the evolution of host range and virulence in poxviruses as well as host switches and potential poxvirus threats for human and animal health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-40
Number of pages26
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Volume21
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Antiviral response
  • Host range
  • Host response
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Poxviruses
  • Virus evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Medicine(all)

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