Zika virus infection, reproductive organ targeting, and semen transmission in the male olive baboon

Jamie Peregrine, Sunam Gurung, Mark C. Lindgren, Sanam Husain, Michael T. Zavy, Dean A. Myers, James F. Papin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in pregnant women is a serious threat to the development and viability of the fetus. The primary mode of ZIKV transmission to humans is through mosquito bites, but sexual transmission has also been well documented in humans. However, little is known of the short- and long-term effects of ZIKV infection on the human male reproductive system. This study examines the effects of ZIKV infection on the male reproductive organs and semen and the immune response of the olive baboon (Papio anubis). Nine mature male baboons were infected with ZIKV (French Polynesian strain) subcutaneously. Six animals were euthanized at 41 days, while three animals were euthanized at 10 or 11 days postinfection (dpi). Viremia and clinical evidence of infection were present in all nine baboons. ZIKV RNA was present in the semen of five of nine baboons. ZIKV was present in the testes of two of three males euthanized at 10 or 11 dpi, but in none of six males at 41 dpi. Immunofluorescence of testes suggested the presence of ZIKV in sperm progenitor cells, macrophage penetration of seminiferous tubules, and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), particularly in vascular walls. These data demonstrate that male olive baboons approximate the male human ZIKV response, including viremia, the adaptive immune response, and persistent ZIKV in semen. Although gross testicular pathology was not seen, the demonstrated breach of the testes-blood barrier and targeting of spermatogenic precursors suggest possible long-term implications in ZIKV-infected primates. IMPORTANCE Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging flavivirus spread through mosquitoes and sexual contact. ZIKV infection during pregnancy can lead to severe fetal outcomes, including miscarriage, fetal death, preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal microcephaly, collectively known as congenital Zika syndrome. Therefore, it is important to understand how this virus spreads, as well as the resulting pathogenesis in translational animal models that faithfully mimic ZIKV infection in humans. Such models will contribute to the future development of efficient therapeutics and prevention mechanisms. Through our previous work in olive baboons, we developed a nonhuman primate model that is permissive to ZIKV infection and transfers the virus vertically from mother to fetus, modeling human observations. The present study contributes to understanding of ZIKV infection in male baboon reproductive tissues and begins to elucidate how this may affect fertility, reproductive capacity, and sexual transmission of the virus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01434-19
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Baboon
  • Humoral immunity
  • Immune modulation
  • Male reproduction
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Olive baboon
  • Semen
  • Seminal vesicles
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Testes
  • West Nile
  • Zika
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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