Maternal Zika Virus (ZIKV) infection following vaginal inoculation with ZIKV-infected semen in timed-pregnant olive baboons

Sunam Gurung, Hugh Nadeau, Marta Maxted, Jamie Peregrine, Darlene Reuter, Abby Norris, Rodney Edwards, Kimberly Hyatt, Krista Singleton, James F. Papin, Dean A. Myers

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18 Scopus citations


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is now firmly linked to congenital Zika syndrome (CZS), including fetal microcephaly. While Aedes species of mosquito are the primary vector for ZIKV, sexual transmission of ZIKV is a significant route of infection. ZIKV has been documented in human, mouse, and nonhuman primate (NHP) semen. It is critical to establish NHP models of the vertical transfer of ZIKV that recapitulate human pathogenesis. We hypothesized that vaginal deposition of ZIKV-infected baboon semen would lead to maternal infection and vertical transfer in the olive baboon (Papio anubis). Epidemiological studies suggest an increased rate of CZS in the Americas compared to the original link to CZS in French Polynesia; therefore, we also compared the French Polynesian (FP) ZIKV isolate to the Puerto Rican (PR) isolate. Timed-pregnant baboons (n = 6) were inoculated via vaginal deposition of baboon semen containing 106 focus-forming units (FFU) of ZIKV (n = 3 for FP isolate H/PF/2013; n = 3 for PR isolate PRVABC59) at midgestation (86 to 95 days of gestation [dG]; term, 183 dG) on day 0 (all dams) and then at 7-day intervals through 3 weeks. Maternal blood, saliva, and cervicovaginal wash (CVW) samples were obtained. Animals were euthanized at 28 days (n = 5) or 39 days (n = 1) after the initial inoculation, and maternal/fetal tissues were collected. Viremia was achieved in 3/3 FP ZIKV-infected dams and 2/3 PR ZIKV-infected dams. ZIKV RNA was detected in CVW samples of 5/6 dams. ZIKV RNA was detected in lymph nodes but not the ovaries, uterus, cervix, or vagina in FP isolate-infected dams. ZIKV RNA was detected in lymph nodes (3/3), uterus (2/3), and vagina (2/3) in PR isolate-infected dams. Placenta, amniotic fluid, and fetal tissues were ZIKV RNA negative in the FP isolate-infected dams, whereas 2/3 PR isolate-infected dam placentas were ZIKV RNA positive. We conclude that ZIKV-infected semen is a means of ZIKV transmission during pregnancy in primates. The PR isolate appeared more capable of widespread dissemination to tissues, including reproductive tissues and placenta, than the FP isolate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00058-20
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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