Zika virus (ZIKV) is an arbovirus that causes birth defects, persistent male infection, and sexual transmission in humans. The purpose of this study was to continue the development of an ovine ZIKV infection model; thus, two experiments were undertaken. In the first experiment, we built on previous pregnant sheep experiments by developing a mid-gestation model of ZIKV infection. Four pregnant sheep were challenged with ZIKV at 57-64 days gestation; two animals served as controls. After 13-15 days (corresponding with 70-79 days of gestation), one control and two infected animals were euthanized; the remaining animals were euthanized at 20-22 days post-infection (corresponding with 77-86 days of gestation). In the second experiment, six sexually mature, intact, male sheep were challenged with ZIKV and two animals served as controls. Infected animals were serially euthanized on days 2-6 and day 9 post-infection with the goal of isolating ZIKV from the male reproductive tract. In the mid-gestation study, virus was detected in maternal placenta and spleen, and in fetal organs, including the brains, spleens/liver, and umbilicus of infected fetuses. Fetuses from infected animals had visibly misshapen heads and morphometrics revealed significantly smaller head sizes in infected fetuses when compared to controls. Placental pathology was evident in infected dams. In the male experiment, ZIKV was detected in the spleen, liver, testes/epididymides, and accessory sex glands of infected animals. Results from both experiments indicate that mid-gestation ewes can be infected with ZIKV with subsequent disruption of fetal development and that intact male sheep are susceptible to ZIKV infection and viral dissemination and replication occurs in highly vascular tissues (including those of the male reproductive tract).
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