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Innate Immune Signaling and Role of Glial Cells in Herpes Simplex Virus- and Rabies Virus-Induced Encephalitis

The environment of the central nervous system (CNS) represents a double-edged sword in the context of viral infections. On the one hand, the infectious route for viral pathogens is restricted via neuroprotective barriers; on the other hand, viruses benefit from the immunologically quiescent neural environment after CNS entry. Both the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and the rabies virus (RABV) bypass the neuroprotective blood–brain barrier (BBB) and successfully enter the CNS parenchyma via nerve endings. Despite the differences in the molecular nature of both viruses, each virus uses retrograde transport along peripheral nerves to reach the human CNS. Once inside the CNS parenchyma, HSV infection results in severe acute inflammation, necrosis, and hemorrhaging, while RABV preserves the intact neuronal network by inhibiting apoptosis and limiting inflammation. During RABV neuroinvasion, surveilling glial cells fail to generate a sufficient type I interferon (IFN) response, enabling RABV to replicate undetected, ultimately leading to its fatal outcome. To date, we do not fully understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the activation or suppression of the host inflammatory responses of surveilling glial cells, which present important pathways shaping viral pathogenesis and clinical outcome in viral encephalitis. Here, we compare the innate immune responses of glial cells in RABV- and HSV-infected CNS, highlighting different viral strategies of neuroprotection or Neuroinflamm. in the context of viral encephalitis.

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