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Replication of Rift Valley Fever Virus in Amphibian and Reptile-Derived Cell Lines

Rift Valley fever phlebovirus (RVFV) is a zoonotic arthropod-borne virus, which has led to devastating epidemics in African countries and on the Arabian Peninsula. Results of in-vivo, in-vitro and field studies suggested that amphibians and reptiles may play a role as reservoir hosts of RVFV, promoting its maintenance during inter-epidemic periods. To elucidate this hypothesis, we examined two newly established reptile-derived cell lines (Egyptian cobra and Chinese pond turtle) and five previously generated reptile- and amphibian-derived cell lines for their replicative capacity for three low- and high-pathogenic RVFV strains. At different time points after infection, viral loads (TCID50), genome loads and the presence of intracellular viral antigen (immunofluorescence) were assessed. Additionally, the influence of temperatures on the replication was examined. Except for one cell line (read-eared slider), all seven cell lines were infected by all three RVFV strains. Two different terrapin-derived cell lines (Common box turtle, Chinese pond turtle) were highly susceptible. A temperature-dependent replication of RVFV was detected for both amphibian and reptile cells. In conclusion, the results of this study indicate the general permissiveness of amphibian and reptile cell lines to RVFV and propose a potential involvement of terrapins in the virus ecology.

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