West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne Flavivirus that causes encephalitis in a subset of susceptible humans. Current treatment for WNV infections is supportive, and no specific therapy of vaccine is available. In this study, we directly tested the prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy of polyclonal antibodies against WNV. Passive administration of human gamma globulin or mouse serum prior to WNV infection protected congenic wild-type, B-cell-deficient (μMT), and T- and B-cell-deficient (RAG1) C57BL/6J mice. Notably, no increased mortality due to immune enhancement was observed. Although immune antibody completely prevented morbidity and mortality in wild-type mice, its effect was not durable in immunocompromised mice: many μMT and RAG1 mice eventually succumbed to infection. Thus, antibody by itself did not completely eliminate viral reservoirs in host tissues, consistent with an intact cellular immune response being required for viral clearance. In therapeutic postexposure studies, human gamma globulin partially protected against WNV-induced mortality. In μMT mice, therapy had to be initiated within 2 days of infection to gain a survival benefit, whereas in the wild-type mice, therapy even 5 days after infection reduced mortality. This time point is significant because between days 4 and 5, WNV was detected in the brains of infected mice. Thus, passive transfer of immune antibody improves clinical outcome even after WNV has disseminated into the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12941-12949
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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