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Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is an emerging pathogen capable of causing severe disease in livestock and humans and can be transmitted by multiple routes including aerosol exposure. Several animal models have been developed to gain insight into the pathogenesis associated with aerosolized RVFV infection, but work with these models is restricted to high containment biosafety level (BSL) laboratories limiting their use for antiviral and vaccine development studies. Here, we report on a new RVFV inhalation infection model in STAT2 KO hamsters exposed to aerosolized MP-12 vaccine virus by nose-only inhalation that enables a more accurate delivery and measurement of exposure dose. RVFV was detected in hepatic and other tissues 4–5 days after challenge, consistent with virus-induced lesions in the liver, spleen and lung. Furthermore, assessment of blood chemistry and hematological parameters revealed alterations in several liver disease markers and white blood cell parameters. Our results indicate that STAT2 KO hamsters develop a disease course that shares features of disease observed in human cases and in other animal models of RVFV aerosol exposure, supporting the use of this BSL-2 infection model for countermeasure development efforts.

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