The Baculoviruses

Part of the series The Viruses pp 33-59

Baculovirus Pathogenesis

  • Brian A. FedericiAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology and Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Genetics, University of California at Riverside

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Humans have been aware of diseases caused by baculoviruses for over 2000 years. The earliest historical accounts originated with descriptions of silkworm “jaundice,” a disease of Bombyx mori that we now know is caused by a nuclear polyhedrosis virus. In addition, people in various cultures throughout history have witnessed, without knowing their cause, spectacular epizootics and subsequent population declines brought about by nuclear polyhedrosis and granulosis viruses in caterpillars and sawfly larvae that feed in the forests and on field and vegetable crops (Benz, 1986). However, it was not until this century, and especially since the end of World War II, that the etiologic agents that cause these diseases were identified as a unique family of viruses, now known as the baculoviruses, which are largely restricted to insects. Moreover, although the literature from the first half of this century contains good descriptions of the diseases caused by nuclear polyhedrosis and granulosis viruses, it is only recently that we have begun to understand the progression of these diseases in their hosts and to identify the genes and gene products that underlie their various pathologies.