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Eili Huhtamo - Top 30 Publications

Differences in the growth properties of Zika virus foetal brain isolate and related epidemic strains in vitro.

Zika virus (ZIKV) has recently emerged into new areas in the Americas and Asia, causing an epidemic characterized by severe congenital infections. While ZIKV infection is usually asymptomatic or causes mild symptoms, it has now caused a high rate of foetal brain and ocular abnormalities. The underlying reasons for the varying severity of disease outcomes is poorly understood. In this study, we compared the infectivity and replication of three disease-associated Zika viruses of Asian lineage, as well as the prototypic ZIKV strain from Africa. The recent foetal brain isolate FB-GWUH-2016 demonstrated enhanced infectivity and replication over the serum-origin isolates from French Polynesia and Martinique, suggesting differences in the pathogenic properties.

The Presence and Seroprevalence of Arthropod-Borne Viruses in Nasiriyah Governorate, Southern Iraq: A Cross-Sectional Study.

The knowledge on the presence and seroprevalence of arboviruses in Iraq is fragmental. To assess the exposure of the population to arbovirus infections in southern Iraq, we conducted a serological screening of the most common arbovirus groups using immunofluorescence, hemagglutination inhibition and neutralization tests. Serum samples of 399 adult volunteers were collected in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Antibodies were detected against West Nile virus (WNV) (11.6%), sandfly-borne Sicilian virus serocomplex (18.2%), sandfly-borne Naples virus serocomplex (7.8%), Sindbis virus (1.5%), chikungunya virus (0.5%), and Tahyna virus (2.0%). The results suggest that WNV and sandfly-borne phlebovirus infections are common in southern Iraq, and these viruses should be considered as potential causative agents in patients with febrile disease and/or neurological manifestations.

Zika virus infection in a traveller returning from the Maldives, June 2015.

We report a Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in a patient with fever and rash after returning to Finland from Maldives, June 2015. The patient had dengue virus (DENV) IgG and IgM antibodies but pan-flavivirus RT-PCR and subsequent sequencing showed presence of ZIKV RNA in urine. Recent association of ZIKV with microcephaly highlights the need for laboratory differentiation of ZIKV from DENV infection and the circulation of ZIKV in areas outside its currently known distribution range.

Rodents and risk in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam: seroprevalence of selected zoonotic viruses in rodents and humans.

In the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, rats are commonly traded in wet markets and sold live for food consumption. We investigated seroprevalence to selected groups of rodent-borne viruses among human populations with high levels of animal exposure and among co-located rodent populations. The indirect fluorescence antibody test (IFAT) was used to determine seropositivity to representative reference strains of hantaviruses (Dobrava virus [DOBV], Seoul virus [SEOV]), cowpox virus, arenaviruses (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus [LCMV]), flaviviruses (tick-borne encephalitis virus [TBEV]), and rodent parechoviruses (Ljungan virus), using sera from 245 humans living in Dong Thap Province and 275 rodents representing the five common rodent species sold in wet markets and present in peridomestic and farm settings. Combined seropositivity to DOBV and SEOV among the rodents and humans was 6.9% (19/275) and 3.7% (9/245), respectively; 1.1% (3/275) and 4.5% (11/245) to cowpox virus; 5.4% (15/275) and 47.3% (116/245) for TBEV; and exposure to Ljungan virus was 18.8% (46/245) in humans, but 0% in rodents. Very little seroreactivity was observed to LCMV in either rodents (1/275, 0.4%) or humans (2/245, 0.8%). Molecular screening of rodent liver tissues using consensus primers for flaviviruses did not yield any amplicons, whereas molecular screening of rodent lung tissues for hantavirus yielded one hantavirus sequence (SEOV). In summary, these results indicate low to moderate levels of endemic hantavirus circulation, possible circulation of a flavivirus in rodent reservoirs, and the first available data on human exposures to parechoviruses in Vietnam. Although the current evidence suggests only limited exposure of humans to known rodent-borne diseases, further research is warranted to assess public health implications of the rodent trade.

Approach to non-invasive sampling in dengue diagnostics: exploring virus and NS1 antigen detection in saliva and urine of travelers with dengue.

Dengue diagnostics currently relies on serum and plasma tests. Although the proof of concept for detecting dengue virus (DENV) RNA and nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) antigen from urine and saliva has been demonstrated, few studies have explored their use in diagnostics.

Suspected YF-AND after yellow fever vaccination in Finland.

Yellow fever (YF) vaccine is considered safe but vaccine-associated complications have also been encountered. We report neurological symptoms after YF-vaccination in a previously healthy Finnish male. Other concomitant infections or causes for the symptoms could not be identified.

Serological evidence of Batai virus infections, bovines, northern Italy, 2011.

Batai virus (BATV) was identified in mosquitoes in the Caltignaga region of Novarra, northern Italy in 2009. Here, we report the identification of antibodies to BATV in serum samples that were taken from healthy bovines in that region in 2011. BATV has been associated with a mild febrile human illness and identified as the likely parental segment donor in a reassortment event that resulted in the generation of the virulent progeny, Ngari virus. The possible veterinary disease associations of BATV are unknown. The presence of antibodies to BATV in bovine populations confirms local transmission in northern Italy. Given its likely role as a segment donor, an understanding of the geographic and host distributions of BATV is of veterinary and human public health interest.

Novel flaviviruses from mosquitoes: mosquito-specific evolutionary lineages within the phylogenetic group of mosquito-borne flaviviruses.

Novel flaviviruses that are genetically related to pathogenic mosquito-borne flaviviruses (MBFV) have been isolated from mosquitoes in various geographical locations, including Finland. We isolated and characterized another novel virus of this group from Finnish mosquitoes collected in 2007, designated as Ilomantsi virus (ILOV). Unlike the MBFV that infect both vertebrates and mosquitoes, the MBFV-related viruses appear to be specific to mosquitoes similar to the insect-specific flaviviruses (ISFs). In this overview of MBFV-related viruses we conclude that they differ from the ISFs genetically and antigenically. Phylogenetic analyses separated the MBFV-related viruses isolated in Africa, the Middle East and South America from those isolated in Europe and Asia. Serological cross-reactions of MBFV-related viruses with other flaviviruses and their potential for vector-borne transmission require further characterization. The divergent MBFV-related viruses are probably significantly under sampled to date and provide new information on the variety, properties and evolution of vector-borne flaviviruses.

Isolation and characterization of a California encephalitis serogroup orthobunyavirus from Finnish mosquitoes.

The mosquito-borne California encephalitis serogroup viruses of the genus Orthobunyavirus (family Bunyaviridae) include several causative agents of encephalitis in humans. Until recently, Inkoo virus (INKV) was the only orthobunyavirus isolated in Finland, showing high seroprevalence in the population. In this study, we recovered five orthobunyavirus isolates from mosquitoes collected in eastern Finland in the early autumns of 2007 and 2008 by inoculation of Vero cells. The isolates were determined by S, M and L segment sequences to represent the California encephalitis virus species but distinct from INKV (68% polyprotein amino acid (aa) identity). In genetic analyses, isolates clustered together with a number of westernmost Chatanga virus isolates (98% polyprotein aa identity) reported from Russia, forming a distinct phylogroup. However, the sequence homology of this phylogroup to the majority of Chatanga isolates, comprising three different geographically clustered phylogroups, was considerably lower (89-92% polyprotein aa identity). The five new isolates were designated as Möhkö isolates of Chatanga virus, according to the village of origin. The isolates were closely related to Snowshoe hare virus (SSHV) and La Crosse virus (LACV) with an aa identity of 87% and 82% within the M segment polyprotein, respectively. The genetic relatedness of Möhkö isolates to a number of human pathogenic orthobunyaviruses warrants further investigation on their potential disease associations and further serological analysis is needed to compare them to other Chatanga virus isolates and SSHV to determine their true antigenic relation.

Complete genome analysis identifies Tvärminne avian virus as a candidate new species within the genus Orthoreovirus.

Orthoreoviruses have been associated with a variety of diseases in domesticated poultry and wild-living birds. In 2002, a reovirus strain named Tvärminne avian virus (TVAV), was identified in Finland in a crow showing neurological disorders. The objective of this study was the molecular characterization of this novel reovirus strain. Genome sequencing was performed by combining semiconductor sequencing and traditional capillary sequencing. Sequence and phylogenetic analyses showed that TVAV shares low nucleotide sequence identity with other reoviruses (range for each gene, 31-72 %) including strains belonging to the species Avian orthoreovirus. The most closely related reovirus strain was an isolate identified in Steller sea lion. Our data indicate that TVAV is a divergent reovirus of avian origin that may be the first representative of a distinct virus species within the genus Orthoreovirus.

Dengue in travelers: kinetics of viremia and NS1 antigenemia and their associations with clinical parameters.

Despite the increasing numbers of travel-acquired dengue, few studies have assessed virologic markers of the disease in non-endemic populations. We examined the kinetics of diagnostic markers and their associations with clinical parameters in 93 patients with travel-acquired dengue fever. Kinetics analyses suggested a longer average duration for viremia (9 days, CI95%: 8-10) and non-structural protein 1 (NS1) antigenemia (15 days, CI95%: 12-20) than reported in endemic populations. While none of the tests sufficed alone, the best diagnostic coverage was achieved by combining antibody detection with RNA or NS1 testing. Studied by regression models, early relative levels of viremia and NS1 antigenemia proved to be significantly associated with several clinical parameters: high viremia predicted greater likelihood and increased length of hospitalization, the degree of NS1 antigenemia correlated positively with hematocrit and liver transaminases, and both viremia and NS1 antigenemia levels negatively with platelet counts in follow-up. Levels of viremia and NS1 antigenemia may serve as predictors of the clinical manifestations in travel-acquired dengue.

Isolation and full genomic characterization of Batai virus from mosquitoes, Italy 2009.

In 2009, 2589 mosquitoes were collected in northwest Italy and screened for orthobunyavirus RNA by RT-PCR. One pool of Anopheles maculipennis complex mosquitoes was found to be positive and a virus was isolated from that pool. The isolate was identified as Batai virus (BATV) by sequencing. Previously, BATV was detected in Italy, but limited data and no prior isolates existed. Full-length sequences of the S, M and L segments were determined for the newly isolated Italian strain. For comparison, partial sequences were also determined for the BATV strain Calovo (former Czechoslovakia, 1960). Phylogenetic analyses revealed clustering of the newly derived Italian BATV along with a recent isolate from Germany and the historic strain Calovo. To the best of our knowledge, this represents the first isolation of BATV from Italy, which confirms a broader geographical distribution of BATV in Europe than was previously verified by isolation.

Novel insect-specific flavivirus isolated from northern Europe.

Mosquitoes collected in Finland were screened for flaviviral RNA leading to the discovery and isolation of a novel flavivirus designated Hanko virus (HANKV). Virus characterization, including phylogenetic analysis of the complete coding sequence, confirmed HANKV as a member of the "insect-specific" flavivirus (ISF) group. HANKV is the first member of this group isolated from northern Europe, and therefore the first northern European ISF for which the complete coding sequence has been determined. HANKV was not transcribed as DNA in mosquito cell culture, which appears atypical for an ISF. HANKV shared highest sequence homology with the partial NS5 sequence available for the recently discovered Spanish Ochlerotatus flavivirus (SOcFV). Retrospective analysis of mitochondrial sequences from the virus-positive mosquito pool suggested an Ochlerotatus mosquito species as the most likely host for HANKV. HANKV and SOcFV may therefore represent a novel group of Ochlerotatus-hosted insect-specific flaviviruses in Europe and further afield.

A single dose of vero cell-derived Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine (Ixiaro) effectively boosts immunity in travelers primed with mouse brain-derived JE vaccines.

A significant part of the world population lives in areas with endemic Japanese encephalitis (JE). For travelers from nonendemic countries, Vero cell-derived vaccine (JE-VC; Ixiaro) has replaced traditional mouse brain-derived vaccines (JE-MB) associated with safety concerns. The 2 vaccines are derived from different viral strains: JE-VC from the SA14-14-2 strain and JE-MB from the Nakayama strain. No data exist regarding whether JE-VC can be used to boost immunity after a primary series of JE-MB; therefore, a primary series of JE-VC has been recommended to all travelers regardless of previous vaccination history.

Complete coding sequence and molecular epidemiological analysis of Sindbis virus isolates from mosquitoes and humans, Finland.

Sindbis virus (SINV) is an arthropod-borne alphavirus, which causes rash-arthritis, particularly in Finland. SINV is transmitted by mosquitoes in Finland but thus far no virus has been isolated from mosquitoes. In this study, we report the isolation of the first SINV strain from mosquitoes in Finland and its full-length protein-coding sequence. We furthermore describe the full-length coding sequence of six SINV strains previously isolated from humans in Finland and from a mosquito in Russia. The strain isolated from mosquitoes (Ilomantsi-2005M) was very closely related to all the other Northern European SINV strains. We found 9 aa positions, of which five in the nsP3 protein C terminus, to be distinctive signatures for the Northern European strains that may be associated with vector or host species adaptation. Phylogenetic analyses further indicate that SINV has a local circulation in endemic regions in Northern Europe and no novel strains are frequently being introduced.

Chikungunya virus as a causative agent of fever of unknown origin in Finnish travellers to tropics.

Rhabdomyolysis and severe muscular weakness in a traveler diagnosed with Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever virus infection.

Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever virus (AHFV) is a tick-borne flavivirus with high case fatality rates, endemic in the Arabian Peninsula. Recently AHFV was detected in travelers returning from Egypt suggesting geographical spreading. We also report AHFV infection in a traveler ex Egypt, representing atypical symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and severe muscular weakness.

Imported dengue virus serotype 3, Yemen to Italy, 2010.

Early diagnosis of dengue in travelers: comparison of a novel real-time RT-PCR, NS1 antigen detection and serology.

The increased traveling to dengue endemic regions and the numerous epidemics have led to a rise in imported dengue. The laboratory diagnosis of acute dengue requires several types of tests and often paired samples are needed for obtaining reliable results. Although several diagnostic methods are available, proper comparative data on their performance are lacking.

Characterization of a novel flavivirus from mosquitoes in northern europe that is related to mosquito-borne flaviviruses of the tropics.

A novel flavivirus was isolated from mosquitoes in Finland, representing the first mosquito-borne flavivirus from Northern Europe. The isolate, designated Lammi virus (LAMV), was antigenically cross-reactive with other flaviviruses and exhibited typical flavivirus morphology as determined by electron microscopy. The genomic sequence of LAMV was highly divergent from the recognized flaviviruses, and yet the polyprotein properties resembled those of mosquito-borne flaviviruses. Phylogenetic analysis of the complete coding sequence showed that LAMV represented a distinct lineage related to the Aedes sp.-transmitted human pathogenic flaviviruses, similarly to the newly described Nounané virus (NOUV), a flavivirus from Africa (S. Junglen et al., J. Virol. 83:4462-4468, 2009). Despite the low sequence homology, LAMV and NOUV were phylogenetically grouped closely, likely representing separate species of a novel group of flaviviruses. Despite the biological properties preferring replication in mosquito cells, the genetic relatedness of LAMV to viruses associated with vertebrate hosts warrants a search for disease associations.

Japanese encephalitis in a Finnish traveler on a two-week holiday in Thailand.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, and one of the leading causes of epidemic encephalitis in Southeast Asia. Reports of symptomatic JEV encephalitis in tourists have been rare. We describe a case of symptomatic JE transmitted in 2004 during a short two-week trip to common tourist attractions in Thailand.

Orthomyxo-, paramyxo- and flavivirus infections in wild waterfowl in Finland.

Screening wild birds for viral pathogens has become increasingly important. We tested a screening approach based on blood and cloacal and tracheal swabs collected by hunters to study the prevalence of influenza A, paramyxo-, flavi-, and alphaviruses in Finnish wild waterfowl, which has been previously unknown. We studied 310 blood samples and 115 mixed tracheal and cloacal swabs collected from hunted waterfowl in 2006. Samples were screened by RT-PCR and serologically by hemagglutination inhibition (HI) test or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for influenza A (FLUAV), type 1 avian paramyxo-(APMV-1), Sindbis (SINV), West Nile (WNV) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBEV) virus infections.

Molecular epidemiology of dengue virus strains from Finnish travelers.

We characterized 11 dengue virus (DENV) isolates obtained from Finnish travelers during 2000-2005 using monoclonal antibodies and phylogenetic analysis. The analysis of DENV isolated from travelers contributes to the global picture of strain distribution and circulation. The isolates included all serotypes, including a DENV-2 isolate from Ghana.

Sindbis virus infection in resident birds, migratory birds, and humans, Finland.

Sindbis virus (SINV), a mosquito-borne virus that causes rash and arthritis, has been causing outbreaks in humans every seventh year in northern Europe. To gain a better understanding of SINV epidemiology in Finland, we searched for SINV antibodies in 621 resident grouse, whose population declines have coincided with human SINV outbreaks, and in 836 migratory birds. We used hemagglutination-inhibition and neutralization tests for the bird samples and enzyme immunoassays and hemagglutination-inhibition for the human samples. SINV antibodies were first found in 3 birds (red-backed shrike, robin, song thrush) during their spring migration to northern Europe. Of the grouse, 27.4% were seropositive in 2003 (1 year after a human outbreak), but only 1.4% were seropositive in 2004. Among 2,529 persons, the age-standardized seroprevalence (1999-2003) was 5.2%; seroprevalence and incidence (1995-2003) were highest in North Karelia (eastern Finland). Grouse may contribute to the epidemiology of SINV in humans.

Novel orthoreovirus from diseased crow, Finland.

Fatal dengue virus infection in a Finnish traveler.