Salivary gland extract from the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, facilitates neuroinvasion by Powassan virus in BALB/c mice

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Scientific reports


Powassan virus (POWV) is a neuroinvasive flavivirus transmitted to mammals by the bite of ixodid ticks. In this study, we sought to investigate the impact of tick salivary gland extract (SGE) on POWV neuroinvasion. BALB/c mice were footpad inoculated with either a high dose or a low dose of POWV, with and without Ixodes scapularis salivary gland extract. Brain and spinal cord were extracted daily, and immunohistochemical techniques were used for temporal tracking of POWV antigen. The temporal pattern of POWV staining showed a caudal to rostral spread of POWV in the brains of mice from both high dose infection groups. For the high dose infection groups, the presence of tick SGE did not influence the spread of POWV in the brain. Mice infected with the low dose of virus alone did not present POWV staining in the brain; however, in the presence of SGE, low dose infected mice presented scattered foci of POWV-infected cells throughout the brain. This study shows that tick SGE facilitates POWV neuroinvasion when mice are infected with the lower dose of POWV. We also found two patterns of central nervous system invasion that were directly influenced by the dose of POWV administered.

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