Competency of Amphibians and Reptiles and Their Potential Role as Reservoir Hosts for Rift Valley Fever Virus
Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) is an arthropod-borne zoonotic pathogen, which is endemic in Africa, causing large epidemics, characterized by severe diseases in ruminants but also in humans. As in vitro and field investigations proposed amphibians and reptiles to potentially play a role in the enzootic amplification of the virus, we experimentally infected African common toads and common agamas with two RVFV strains. Lymph or sera, as well as oral, cutaneous and anal swabs were collected from the challenged animals to investigate seroconversion, viremia and virus shedding. Furthermore, groups of animals were euthanized 3, 10 and 21 days post-infection (dpi) to examine viral loads in different tissues during the infection. Our data show for the first time that toads are refractory to RVFV infection, showing neither seroconversion, viremia, shedding nor tissue manifestation. In contrast, all agamas challenged with the RVFV strain ZH501 carried virus genomes in the spleens at 3 dpi, but the animals displayed neither viremia nor virus shedding. In conclusion, the results of this study indicate that amphibians are not susceptible and reptiles are only susceptible to a low extent to RVFV, indicating that both species play, if at all, rather a subordinate role in the RVF virus ecology.