Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, United States; Division of Vector-borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Zika virus (ZIKV) infection can result in neurological disorders including Congenital Zika Syndrome in infants exposed to the virus in utero. Pregnant women can be infected by mosquito bite as well as by sexual transmission from infected men. Herein, the variants of ZIKV within the male reproductive tract and ejaculates were assessed in inoculated mice. We identified two non-synonymous variants at positions E-V330L and NS1-W98G. These variants were also present in the passage three PRVABC59 isolate and infectious clone relative to the patient serum PRVABC59 sequence. In subsequent studies, ZIKV E-330L was less pathogenic in mice than ZIKV E-330V as evident by increased average survival times. In Vero cells, ZIKV E-330L/NS1-98G outcompeted ZIKV E-330V/NS1-98W within 3 passages. These results suggest that the E-330L/NS1-98G variants are attenuating in mice and were enriched during cell culture passaging. Cell culture propagation of ZIKV could significantly affect animal model development and vaccine efficacy studies.