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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), an exclusively human herpesvirus, causes chickenpox and establishes a latent infection in ganglia, reactivating decades later to produce zoster and associated neurological complications. An understanding of VZV neurotropism in humans has long been hampered by the lack of an adequate animal model. For example, experimental inoculation of VZV in small animals including guinea pigs and cotton rats results in the infection of ganglia but not a rash. The severe combined immune deficient human (SCID-hu) model allows the study of VZV neurotropism for human neural sub-populations. Simian varicella virus (SVV) infection of rhesus macaques (RM) closely resembles both human primary VZV infection and reactivation, with analyses at early times after infection providing valuable information about the extent of viral replication and the host immune responses. Indeed, a critical role for CD4 T-cell immunity during acute SVV infection as well as reactivation has emerged based on studies using RM. Herein we discuss the results of efforts from different groups to establish an animal model of VZV neurotropism.

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