Arenaviruses merit significant attention both as tractable model systems to study acute and persistent viral infections, and as clinically important human pathogens. Evidence indicates that LCMV remains present in the USA and Europe and capable of causing significant morbidity in infected individuals, likely being a neglected human pathogen. Moreover, new arenaviruses are being discovered in the Americas on the average of one every three years, with some of them causing severe hemorrhagic fever. In addition, weaponized forms of these viruses pose a real threat as agents of bioterrorism. Therefore, it is important to develop effective vaccines and better antiviral drugs to combat the dual threats of naturally occurring and intentionally introduced Arenavirus infections. The development of arenavirus reverse genetic systems is allowing investigators to conduct a detailed molecular characterization of the viral cis-acting signals and trans-acting factors that control each of the steps of the Arenavirus life cycle, including RNA synthesis, packaging and budding. We will discuss how this new knowledge is facilitating the establishment of novel assays to identify and characterize compounds capable of interfering with specific steps of the virus life cycle. Likewise, the ability to generate predetermined specific mutations within the arenavirus genome, and analyze their phenotypic expression, would significantly contribute to the elucidation of arenavirus-host interactions, including the bases of their ability to persist, as well as to cause severe HF (hemorrhagic fever) disease in humans. These approaches could also lead to the development of novel potent and safe Arenavirus vaccines.
Keywords: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), anti-viral antibodies, ambisense coding, reverse genetic systems, Virus-Host Cell Attachment, 5-fluorouracil
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