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Human Astroviruses: A Tale of Two Strains

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Since the 1970s, eight closely related serotypes of classical human astroviruses (HAstV) have been associated with gastrointestinal illness worldwide. In the late 2000s, three genetically unique human astrovirus clades, VA1-VA3, VA2-VA4, and MLB, were described. While the exact disease associated with these clades remains to be defined, VA1 has been associated with central nervous system infections. The discovery that VA1 could be grown in cell culture, supports exciting new studies aimed at understanding viral pathogenesis. Given the association of VA1 with often lethal CNS infections, we tested its susceptibility to the antimicrobial drug, nitazoxanide (NTZ), which we showed could inhibit classical HAstV infections. Our studies demonstrate that NTZ inhibited VA1 replication in Caco2 cells even when added at 12 h post-infection, which is later than in HAstV-1 infection. These data led us to further probe VA1 replication kinetics and cellular responses to infection in Caco-2 cells in comparison to the well-studied HAstV-1 strain. Overall, our studies highlight that VA1 replicates more slowly than HAstV-1 and elicits significantly different cellular responses, including the inability to disrupt cellular junctions and barrier permeability.

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