U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 80(5), 2009, pp. 864–869


The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a common and abundant amplifying host of West Nile virus (WNV) and many survive infection and develop humoral immunity. We experimentally inoculated house sparrows with WNV and monitored duration and protection of resulting antibodies. Neutralizing antibody titers remained relatively constant for ≥ 36 months (N = 42) and provided sterilizing immunity for up to 36 months post-inoculation in 98.6% of individuals (N = 72). These results imply that immune house sparrows are protected from WNV infection for multiple transmission seasons. Additionally, individuals experiencing WNV-associated mortality reached significantly higher peak viremia titers than survivors, and mortality during acute infection was significantly higher in caged versus free-flight sparrows. A better understanding of the long-term immunity and mortality rates in birds is valuable in interpreting serosurveillance and diagnostic data and modeling transmission and disease dynamics.