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Some viruses are rarely transmitted orally or sexually despite their presence in saliva, breast milk, or semen. We previously identified that extracellular vesicles (EVs) in semen and saliva inhibit Zika virus infection. However, the antiviral spectrum and underlying mechanism remained unclear. Here we applied lipidomics and flow cytometry to show that these EVs expose phosphatidylserine (PS). By blocking PS receptors, targeted by Zika virus in the process of apoptotic mimicry, they interfere with viral attachment and entry. Consequently, physiological concentrations of EVs applied in vitro efficiently inhibited infection by apoptotic mimicry dengue, West Nile, Chikungunya, Ebola and vesicular stomatitis viruses, but not severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, human immunodeficiency virus 1, hepatitis C virus and herpesviruses that use other entry receptors. Our results identify the role of PS-rich EVs in body fluids in innate defence against infection via viral apoptotic mimicries, explaining why these viruses are primarily transmitted via PS-EV-deficient blood or blood-ingesting arthropods rather than direct human-to-human contact.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Microbiol

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