Distribution of zoonotic variegated squirrel bornavirus 1 in naturally infected variegated and Prevost's squirrels
Recently, the zoonotic capacity of the newly discovered variegated squirrel bornavirus 1 (VSBV-1) was confirmed in humans with a lethal encephalitis. Transmission to humans occurred by variegated and Prevost's squirrels as presumed reservoir hosts but possible ways of virus shedding and the route of infection still need to be elucidated. Thus, the tissue distribution of VSBV-1 antigen and RNA was investigated in detail via immunohistochemistry (IHC) in six variegated and eight Prevost's squirrels and by in situ hybridisation (ISH) in one Prevost's squirrel, respectively. VSBV-1 antigen and RNA positive cells were most numerous in the nervous system and were also found in nearly all tissues and different cell types indicating a broad organ and cell tropism of VSBV-1. Presence of VSBV-1 in several organs might indicate potential virus shedding via various routes and implies the risk of intra- and interspecies transmission, respectively.