Orthohantavirus Isolated in Reservoir Host Cells Displays Minimal Genetic Changes and Retains Wild-Type Infection Properties
Orthohantaviruses are globally emerging zoonotic pathogens. While the reservoir host role of several rodent species is well-established, detailed research on the mechanisms of host-othohantavirus interactions has been constrained by the lack of an experimental system that is able to effectively replicate natural infections in controlled settings. Here we report the isolation, and genetic and phenotypic characterization of a novel Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) in cells derived from its reservoir host, the bank vole. The isolation process resulted in cell culture infection that evaded antiviral responses, persisted cell passaging, and had minor viral genome alterations. Critically, experimental infections of bank voles with the new isolate resembled natural infections in terms of viral load and host cell distribution. When compared to an attenuated Vero E6 cell-adapted PUUV Kazan strain, the novel isolate demonstrated delayed virus-specific humoral responses. A lack of virus-specific antibodies was also observed during experimental infections with wild-type PUUV, suggesting that delayed seroconversion could be a general phenomenon during orthohantavirus infection in reservoir hosts. Our results demonstrate that orthohantavirus isolation on cells derived from a vole reservoir host retains wild-type infection properties and should be considered the method of choice for experimental infection models to replicate natural processes.