Bunyaviridae Infection And Immunity

James S Porterfield, formerly of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

In 1943 a virus was isolated from a pool of wild-caught Aedes mosquitoes collected in an uninhabited area of Semliki Forest in western Uganda known as Bunyamwera. The virus was unrelated to yellow fever virus, or to any of the 20 or so arthropod-borne viruses or 'arboviruses' then known, and it was named Bunyamwera virus. Although antibodies against Bunyamwera virus were detected in some residents of nearby villages, no disease association was apparent, and the virus appeared to be little more than a virological curiosity. By 1960 about a dozen arboviruses isolated in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia had been shown to be serologically related to Bunyamwera virus, and this number increased over the next decades. More than 50 years after its isolation, Bunyamwera virus remains an unimportant virus in terms of human disease, causing at the most a mild fever with a rash, but it has been intensively studied as the type species both of the genus Bunyavirus and of the large and diverse family Bunyaviridae which now contains more than 300 members placed in five different genera, Bunyavirus, Hantavirus, Nairovirus, Phlebovirus and Tospovirus (Table 1).

Although the majority of Bunyaviridae resemble the type species in being of minor medical importance, the family does contain a number of major pathogens of humans and/or animals. Most bunya-viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes or by Culicoi-des, most phleboviruses by Phlebotomines, and all nairoviruses by ticks, whereas hantaviruses are not arthropod-borne, but are zoonotic agents capable of infecting humans after close contact with infected animals, mainly rodents and voles. Tospoviruses are thrip-transmitted plant viruses such as tomato spotted wilt and related viruses. They are of no medical or veterinary interest, but are included in the Bunyaviridae on the basis of their close physical, biochemi cal and genetic similarities to viruses in the other genera. They illustrate the great genetic diversity shown by members of this substantial family.

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