The pathogenesis of enteric zoster, a rare debilitating complication of reactivation of latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in the enteric nervous system (ENS), is largely unknown. Infection of monkeys with the closely related Varicellovirus simian varicella virus (SVV) mimics VZV disease in humans. In this study, we determined the applicability of the SVV nonhuman primate model to study Varicellovirus infection of the ENS. We confirmed VZV infection of the gut in latently infected adults and demonstrated that SVV DNA was similarly present in gut of monkeys latently infected with SVV using quantitative real-time PCR. In situ analyses showed that enteric neurons expressed SVV open reading frame (ORF) 63 RNA, but not viral nucleocapsid proteins, suggestive of latent ENS infection. During primary infection, SVV-infected T-cells were detected in gut-draining mesenteric lymph nodes and located in close vicinity to enteric nerves in the gut. Furthermore, flow cytometric analysis of blood from acutely SVV-infected monkeys demonstrated that virus-infected T-cells expressed the gut-homing receptor α4β7 integrin. Collectively, the data demonstrate that SVV infects ENS neurons during primary infection and supports the role of T-cells in virus dissemination to the gut. Because SVV reactivation can be experimentally induced, the SVV nonhuman primate model holds great potential to study the pathogenesis of enteric zoster.

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Department of Virology

Ouwendijk, W.J.D, van Veen, S. (Suzanne), Mehraban, T. (Tamana), Mahalingam, R, & Verjans, G.M.G.M. (2018). Simian varicella virus infects enteric neurons and α4β7 integrin-expressing gut-tropic T-cells in nonhuman primates. Viruses, 10(4). doi:10.3390/v10040156