Readers in the US/Europe probably havent heard a whole heck of a lot about alphaviruses.
Mayaro, Chikungunya, Ross River virus– Though these and other alphaviruses infect humans and our livestock (horses) they dont get much media time around here, because theyre more ‘tropical’. Africa, Australia, South America. Thats where alphaviruses prefer to hang out.
Yeah. We used to have that same unconcerned attitude about West Nile Virus.
So everyone should be interested in this new virus:
Some scientists were just derping around in some mosquito guts collected a few decades ago looking for new viruses (dont laugh. what did you do with your weekend?) and they found a novel alphavirus they named Eilat virus:
Eilat virus (EILV) was one of 91 virus isolates obtained during an arbovirus survey the Negev desert, including in the city of Eilat, in Israel, during 1982 to 1984.
YAY! New virus!
Why should you care?
Because alphaviruses normally replicate in mosquitoes (the vector for transmission) and warm blooded creatures (birds, horses, you).
Replicates in insect cells just fine. Wants nothing to do with mammalian cells. Nothing. Wont replicate at all. Some alphaviruses literally have ‘encephalitis‘ in their names, but Eilat virus doesnt do a damn thing after its injected right on the brains of mice.
Preliminary characterization showed that EILV was unable to infect mammalian cells or to kill infant mice inoculated intracerebrally, but could replicate to high titers in a variety of insect cells.
With a bit of viral GMO effort, we might be able to turn Eilat virus into a fantastic vaccine for alphaviruses that infect humans. Its already a ‘natural’ ‘live attenuated’ vaccine (live virus, doesnt like to replicate in humans), but we will have to screw around with it a bit to make it a protective vaccine against something like Chikungunya.
YAY New virus!!!!