Susceptibility of domestic pigs to experimental infection with ebolaviruses

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Lewis, Charles Elliott
Major Professor
Roth, Jim
Dodd, Kimd
McGill, Jodi
Miller, Cathy
Pickering, Brad
Committee Member
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Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine
The Ebolavirus genus contains several of the deadliest zoonotic viruses known. Though bats are routinely implicated as the possible reservoir host for the ebolaviruses, the involvement of other species in ecology of these viruses is unclear. In 2008, domestic pigs were shown to be naturally infected with Reston virus (RESTV), the only ebolavirus known to be non-pathogenic in humans. Subsequent experimental infections have demonstrated that pigs are also susceptible to highly lethal, human-pathogenic Ebola virus, raising further concerns about food safety, pathogenicity, and the role pigs may play in ebolavirus ecology and spillover dynamics. Whether infection of domestic pigs can support the eventual emergence of a human-pathogenic RESTV is unclear, necessitating further investigation into the pig-ebolavirus relationship. Here, we describe the successful experimental infection of domestic pigs with a non-human primate-derived isolate of RESTV resulting in severe pulmonary pathology with systemic dissemination of virus, shedding of infectious virus, and transmission to and subsequent infection of a co-housed, naïve contact animal. Our data show that pig-adaptation of the virus was not required for infection and that natural infection of pigs could arise directly from non-human primates, or vice versa. We also provide the first report describing the susceptibility of domestic pigs to Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), another highly pathogenic ebolavirus responsible for outbreaks of lethal disease in humans. We show that pigs are not only susceptible to experimental infection with BDBV, but that the development of productive infection, tissue dissemination, and shedding of infectious virus can occur while animals remain clinically asymptomatic. The results of these studies further support the hypothesis that pigs may serve as intermediate or amplifying hosts in ebolavirus ecology, leading to concerns for both human public health and food security.