Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging disease in China, South Korea, and Japan caused by the tick-borne SFTS virus (SFTSV). Severe and fatal SFTS presents as a hemorrhagic fever characterized by high viral load, uncontrolled inflammatory response, dysregulated adaptive immunity, coagulation abnormalities, hemorrhage, and multiorgan failure with up to 33% case fatality rates (CFRs). Despite its public health significance in Asia, vaccines and specific therapeutics against SFTS are still unavailable. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of SFTS is crucial to improving medical countermeasures against this devastating disease. In this issue of the JCI, Suzuki and colleagues analyzed histopathological samples from 22 individuals who succumbed to SFTS, and identified antibody-producing B cell-lineage plasmablasts and macrophages as principal target cells for SFTSV infection in fatal SFTS. Their results suggest that SFTSV-infected post-germinal center B cells, plasmablasts, and macrophages affect systemic immunopathology and dysregulation, which likely leads to fatal outcomes.
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