Enhancement of Zika virus pathogenesis by preexisting antiflavivirus immunity

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Abstract

Zika virus (ZIKV) is spreading rapidly into regions around the world where other flaviviruses, such as dengue virus (DENV) and West Nile virus (WNV), are endemic. Antibody-dependent enhancement has been implicated in more severe forms of flavivirus disease, but whether this also applies to ZIKV infection is unclear. Using convalescent plasma from DENV- and WNV-infected individuals, we found substantial enhancement of ZIKV infection in vitro that was mediated through immunoglobulin G engagement of Fcγ receptors. Administration of DENV- or WNV-convalescent plasma into ZIKV-susceptible mice resulted in increased morbidity—including fever, viremia, and viral loads in spinal cord and testes—and increased mortality. Antibody-dependent enhancement may explain the severe disease manifestations associated with recent ZIKV outbreaks and highlights the need to exert great caution when designing flavivirus vaccines.

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