Background: Zika virus (ZIKV) infection causes diseases ranging from acute self-limiting febrile illness to life-threatening Guillain–Barré Syndrome and other neurological disorders in adults. Cumulative evidence suggests an association between ZIKV infection and microcephaly in newborn infants. Given the host-range restrictions of the virus, a susceptible animal model infected by ZIKV must be developed for evaluation of vaccines and antivirals. In this study, we propose a convenient mouse model for analysis of neurological disorders caused by ZIKV. Methodology: Six-day-old immunocompetent ICR suckling mice were used in the experiment. Different inoculum virus concentrations, challenge routes, and challenge times were assessed. Viremic dissemination was determined in the liver, spleen, kidney, and brain through Western blot assay, plaque assay, absolute quantification real-time PCR, and histological observation. Azithromycin, a well-characterized anti-ZIKV compound, was used to evaluate the ICR suckling mouse model for antiviral testing. Conclusions: Signs of illness and neurological disease and high mortality rate were observed in mice injected with ZIKV intracerebrally (102 to 105) and intraperitoneally (103 to 105). Viremic dissemination was observed in the liver, spleen, kidney, and brain. ZIKV transmitted, rapid replicated, and induced monocyte infiltration into the brain approximately 5 to 6 days post inoculum. Azithromycin conferred protection against ZIKV-caused neurological and life-threatening diseases. The developed model of ZIKV infection and disease can be used for screening drugs against ZIKV and discovering the underlying mechanism of ZIKV pathogenesis.
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