Experimental Infection with Western Equine Encephalomyelitis Virus in Wild Rodents Indigenous to Kern County, California
Infection and Immunity
Six species of rodents from Kern County, California, were inoculated subcutaneously with western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE) virus to determine their susceptibility to infection and their potential as natural hosts. Ammospermophilus nelsoni, Citellus beecheyi, Dipodomys heermanni, Dipodomys nitratoides, Peromyscus maniculatus, and Sciurus griseus were readily infected. Infection was usually fatal in Dipodomys species, C. beecheyi, and S. griseus, but was clinically inapparent in other
... ent in other species. Viremic responses varied greatly in magnitude and duration in different species and with different viral strains. Viremic animals that survived developed high titers of hemagglutination-inhibiting antibody. Hemagglutination-inhibiting and neutralizing antibodies persisted at high titers for at least 8 to 58 weeks after infection, except in P. maniculatus. If animals died during or shortly after the viremic phase of infection, the virus usually was recoverable from numerous organs. Long-term survival of virus could not be demonstrated in A. nelsoni and Dipodomys species. It is concluded that A. nelsoni and P. maniculatus are not important natural hosts of WEE virus; they are susceptible to infection and develop antibodies, but serological surveys of the same species rarely reveal evidence of infection. S. griseus, D. heermanni, D. nitratoides, and possibly C. beecheyi are aberrant hosts of WEE virus since most of them died when infected. Two species of ticks that are ectoparasitic on rodents in Kern County were evaluated as vectors of WEE virus. Dermacentor parumapertus failed to become infected after feeding on viremic hosts, and Ornithodorus parkeri became infected but failed to transmit virus.