Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 32516409
Link to DOI – 10.1093/cid/ciaa308
Clin Infect Dis 2021 May; 72(10): 1701-1708
Human encephalitis represents a medical challenge from a diagnostic and therapeutic point of view. We investigated the cause of 2 fatal cases of encephalitis of unknown origin in immunocompromised patients.Untargeted metatranscriptomics was applied on the brain tissue of 2 patients to search for pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, or protozoans) without a prior hypothesis.Umbre arbovirus, an orthobunyavirus never previously identified in humans, was found in 2 patients. In situ hybridization and reverse transcriptase-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) showed that Umbre virus infected neurons and replicated at high titers. The virus was not detected in cerebrospinal fluid by RT-qPCR. Viral sequences related to Koongol virus, another orthobunyavirus close to Umbre virus, were found in Culex pipiens mosquitoes captured in the south of France where the patients had spent some time before the onset of symptoms, demonstrating the presence of the same clade of arboviruses in Europe and their potential public health impact. A serological survey conducted in the same area did not identify individuals positive for Umbre virus. The absence of seropositivity in the population may not reflect the actual risk of disease transmission in immunocompromised individuals.Umbre arbovirus can cause encephalitis in immunocompromised humans and is present in Europe.