The host and viral factors that influence disease outcome during flavivirus infections are not fully understood. Using the live attenuated yellow fever virus (YFV) vaccine strain 17D as a model system we evaluated how viral dose, inoculation route and immunopathogenesis contributed to disease outcome in mice deficient in the type I IFN response. We found that YFV-17D infection of IFN-a/b receptor knockout mice resulted in three distinct disease outcomes: no clinical signs of disease, fatal viscerotropic disease or fatal neurotropic disease. Interestingly, viral load at disease onset did not correlate with disease outcome. However, we found increased immune infiltrates in the brain tissues of mice that developed neurotropic disease. Additionally, mice that developed viscerotropic disease, as characterized by liver and spleen pathology and/or intestinal haemorrhage, had significantly elevated levels of alanine aminotransferase, monocyte chemotactic protein and IFN-inducible protein (IP)-10 as compared with mice with no clinical signs of disease or neurotropic disease. Furthermore, mice treated with recombinant IP-10 throughout YFV-17D infection showed increased mortality and an increased percentage of mice with viscerotropic disease. Our results demonstrated that viral load did not correlate with pathogenesis, and the host immune response played a pivotal role in disease outcome and contributed to YFV-17D pathogenesis in mice.
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