Archives of Virology

, Volume 154, Issue 5, pp 783–789 | Cite as

Persistent West Nile virus infection in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus)

  • Nicole NemethEmail author
  • Ginger Young
  • Christina Ndaluka
  • Helle Bielefeldt-Ohmann
  • Nicholas Komar
  • Richard Bowen
Original Article


Long-term persistence of West Nile virus (WNV) infection within vertebrate reservoir hosts is a potential mechanism for overwintering of this (and other) arbovirus(es) at temperate latitudes. The house sparrow (Passer domesticus), an established amplifying host for WNV and other arboviruses, was used as a model to confirm chronicity of WNV infection in passerine birds and to evaluate the feasibility of two overwintering mechanisms: blood-borne infection of arthropod vectors (recrudescence) and oral infection of vertebrate reservoir hosts (ingestion of infected tissues through predation). WNV-inoculated sparrows were monitored for persistent infection for up to 2 years. Infectious virus persisted in tissues through 43 days, but not in sera beyond 6 days. Viral RNA persisted in tissues through 65 days. Chronicity of WNV infection in some tissues, but not blood, supports the predation mechanism of WNV overwintering, but not recrudescence. RNA persistence impacts interpretation and etiologic determination of avian mortality.


West Nile Virus House Sparrow West Nile Virus Infection Cloacal Swab Oral Swab 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to P. Gordy, A. Bosco-Lauth, K. Jones, P. Oesterle, N. Roberts and others for logistical support. K. Burkhalter provided advice on RT-PCR and R. McLean provided editorial comments. This research was funded by National Institutes of Health contract N01-AI25489, Emerging Infectious Viral Disease Unit.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Nemeth
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ginger Young
    • 3
  • Christina Ndaluka
    • 2
  • Helle Bielefeldt-Ohmann
    • 2
  • Nicholas Komar
    • 3
  • Richard Bowen
    • 4
  1. 1.National Wildlife Research CenterFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology, Immunology and PathologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Division of Vector-Borne Infectious DiseasesCenters for Disease Control and PreventionFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biomedical SciencesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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