West Nile Virus: Characteristics of an African Virus Adapting to the Third Millennium World

Marina Monini1, Emiliana Falcone1, Luca Busani1, Roberto Romi2, Franco Maria Ruggeri*, 1
1 Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica Veterinaria e Sicurezza Alimentare
2 Dipartimento di Malattie Infettive, Parassitarie e Immuno-mediate, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, V.le Regina Elena, 299 - 00161 Rome, Italy

© Monini et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Dipartimento di Sanità Pubblica Veterinaria e Sicurezza Alimentare, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, V.le Regina Elena, 299, 00161 Rome, Italy; Tel: +390649902980; Fax: +390649387077; E-mail:


The emergence and spread of West Nile Virus (WNV) from North through South America during the last decade, and the recent outbreaks of disease in both humans and horses in Europe suggest that the epidemiology of this infection is evolving. WNV is now considered among the emerging threats for both human and veterinary public health in areas like Europe where it was previously regarded to as an exotic agent. Further knowledge has built up from studies investigating the characteristics of the virus and its genome evolution capacity, the adaptation to new avian host species, the changes in vector competence and biology, and the host-pathogen interactions, including the immune response. Also, the new needs for preparedness to future major outbursts of disease have stimulated research on virus detection and characterization, filling the gaps in both specialized diagnostic technology and the need for field rapid assays. This review will present an overview of WNV virology, remarking the impact of virus diversity and evolution on theoretical and practical aspects involved in both risk definition, detection and control of infection.

Keywords: West Nile Virus, flavivirus, zoonosis, genome, evolution, immunity, virulence..