Declining ecosystem health and the dilution effect.
ABSTRACT: The "dilution effect" implies that where species vary in susceptibility to infection by a pathogen, higher diversity often leads to lower infection prevalence in hosts. For directly transmitted pathogens, non-host species may "dilute" infection directly (1) and indirectly (2). Competitors and predators may (1) alter host behavior to reduce pathogen transmission or (2) reduce host density. In a well-studied system, we tested the dilution of the zoonotic Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) in bank voles (Myodes glareolus) by two competitors and a predator. Our study was based on long-term PUUV infection data (2003-2013) in northern Sweden. The field vole (Microtus agrestis) and the common shrew (Sorex araneus) are bank vole competitors and Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus) is a main predator of bank voles. Infection probability in bank voles decreased when common shrew density increased, suggesting that common shrews reduced PUUV transmission. Field voles suppressed bank vole density in meadows and clear-cuts and indirectly diluted PUUV infection. Further, Tengmalm's owl decline in 1980-2013 may have contributed to higher PUUV infection rates in bank voles in 2003-2013 compared to 1979-1986. Our study provides further evidence for dilution effect and suggests that owls may have an important role in reducing disease risk.
Project description:Intensive management of Fennoscandian forests has led to a mosaic of woodlands in different stages of maturity. The main rodent host of the zoonotic Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) is the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), a species that can be found in all woodlands and especially mature forests. We investigated the influence of forest age structure on PUUV infection dynamics in bank voles. Over four years, we trapped small mammals twice a year in a forest network of different succession stages in Northern Finland. Our study sites represented four forest age classes from young (4 to 30 years) to mature (over 100 years) forests. We show that PUUV-infected bank voles occurred commonly in all forest age classes, but peaked in mature forests. The probability of an individual bank vole to be PUUV infected was positively related to concurrent host population density. However, when population density was controlled for, a relatively higher infection rate was observed in voles trapped in younger forests. Furthermore, we found evidence of a "dilution effect" in that the infection probability was negatively associated with the simultaneous density of other small mammals during the breeding season. Our results suggest that younger forests created by intensive management can reduce hantaviral load in the environment, but PUUV is common in woodlands of all ages. As such, the Fennoscandian forest landscape represents a significant reservoir and source of hantaviral infection in humans.
Project description:Long-term decline and depression of density in cyclic small rodents is a recent widespread phenomenon. These observed changes at the population level might have cascading effects at the ecosystem level. Here, we assessed relationships between changing boreal landscapes and biodiversity changes of small mammal communities. We also inferred potential effects of observed community changes for increased transmission risk of Puumala virus (PUUV) spread, causing the zoonotic disease nephropatica epidemica in humans. Analyses were based on long-term (1971-2013) monitoring data of shrews and voles representing 58 time series in northern Sweden. We calculated richness, diversity, and evenness at alpha, beta, and gamma level, partitioned beta diversity into turnover (species replacement) and nestedness (species addition/removal), used similarity percentages (SIMPER) analysis to assess community structure, and calculated the cumulated number of PUUV-infected bank voles and average PUUV prevalence (percentage of infected bank voles) per vole cycle. Alpha, beta, and gamma richness and diversity of voles, but not shrews, showed long-term trends that varied spatially. The observed patterns were associated with an increase in community contribution of bank vole (<i>Myodes glareolus</i>), a decrease of gray-sided vole (<i>M. rufocanus</i>) and field vole (<i>Microtus agrestis</i>) and a hump-shaped variation in contribution of common shrew (<i>Sorex araneus</i>). Long-term biodiversity changes were largely related to changes in forest landscape structure. Number of PUUV-infected bank voles in spring was negatively related to beta and gamma diversity, and positively related to turnover of shrews (replaced by voles) and to community contribution of bank voles. The latter was also positively related to average PUUV prevalence in spring. We showed that long-term changes in the boreal landscape contributed to explain the decrease in biodiversity and the change in structure of small mammal communities. In addition, our results suggest decrease in small mammal diversity to have knock-on effects on dynamics of infectious diseases among small mammals with potential implications for disease transmission to humans.
Project description:The S segment of bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus)-associated Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) contains two overlapping open reading frames coding for the nucleocapsid (N) and a non-structural (NSs) protein. To identify the influence of bank vole population dynamics on PUUV S segment sequence evolution and test for spillover infections in sympatric rodent species, during 2010-2014, 883 bank voles, 357 yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis), 62 wood mice (A. sylvaticus), 149 common voles (Microtus arvalis) and 8 field voles (M. agrestis) were collected in Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. In total, 27.9% and 22.3% of bank voles were positive for PUUV-reactive antibodies and PUUV-specific RNA, respectively. One of eight field voles was PUUV RNA-positive, indicating a spillover infection, but none of the other species showed evidence of PUUV infection. Phylogenetic and isolation-by-distance analyses demonstrated a spatial clustering of PUUV S segment sequences. In the hantavirus outbreak years 2010 and 2012, PUUV RNA prevalence was higher in our study regions compared to non-outbreak years 2011, 2013 and 2014. NSs amino acid and nucleotide sequence types showed temporal and/or local variation, whereas the N protein was highly conserved in the NSs overlapping region and, to a lower rate, in the N alone coding part.
Project description:The bank vole (Myodes glareolus) is a common small mammal in Europe and a natural host for several important emerging zoonotic viruses, e.g. Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) that causes hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Hantaviruses are known to interfere with several signaling pathways in infected human cells, and HFRS is considered an immune-mediated disease. There is no in vitro-model available for infectious experiments in bank vole cells, nor tools for analyses of bank vole immune activation and responses. Consequently, it is not known if there are any differences in the regulation of virus induced responses in humans compared to natural hosts during infection. We here present an in vitro-model for studies of bank vole borne viruses and their interactions with natural host cell innate immune responses. Bank vole embryonic fibroblasts (VEFs) were isolated and shown to be susceptible for PUUV-infection, including a wild-type PUUV strain (only passaged in bank voles). The significance of VEFs as a model system for bank vole associated viruses was further established by infection studies showing that these cells are also susceptible to tick borne encephalitis, cowpox and Ljungan virus. The genes encoding bank vole IFN-β and Mx2 were partially sequenced and protocols for semi-quantitative RT-PCR were developed. Interestingly, PUUV did not induce an increased IFN-β or Mx2 mRNA expression. Corresponding infections with CPXV and LV induced IFN-β but not Mx2, while TBEV induced both IFN-β and Mx2. In conclusion, VEFs together with protocols developed for detection of bank vole innate immune activation provide valuable tools for future studies of how PUUV and other zoonotic viruses affect cells derived from bank voles compared to human cells. Notably, wild-type PUUV which has been difficult to cultivate in vitro readily infected VEFs, suggesting that embryonic fibroblasts from natural hosts might be valuable for isolation of wild-type hantaviruses.
Project description:In Europe, Puumala virus (PUUV) is responsible for nephropathia epidemica (NE), a mild form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Despite the presence of its reservoir, the bank vole, on most of French territory, the geographic distribution of NE cases is heterogeneous and NE endemic and non-endemic areas have been reported. In this study we analyzed whether bank vole-PUUV interactions could partly shape these epidemiological differences. We performed crossed-experimental infections using wild bank voles from French endemic (Ardennes) and non-endemic (Loiret) areas and two French PUUV strains isolated from these areas. The serological response and dynamics of PUUV infection were compared between the four cross-infection combinations. Due to logistical constraints, this study was based on a small number of animals. Based on this experimental design, we saw a stronger serological response and presence of PUUV in excretory organs (bladder) in bank voles infected with the PUUV endemic strain. Moreover, the within-host viral diversity in excretory organs seemed to be higher than in other non-excretory organs for the NE endemic cross-infection but not for the NE non-endemic cross-infection. Despite the small number of rodents included, our results showed that genetically different PUUV strains and in a lesser extent their interaction with sympatric bank voles, could affect virus replication and diversity. This could impact PUUV excretion/transmission between rodents and to humans and in turn at least partly shape NE epidemiology in France.
Project description:Understanding the dynamics of zoonotic pathogens in their reservoir host populations is a prerequisite for predicting and preventing human disease epidemics. The human infection risk of Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) is highest in northern Europe, where populations of the rodent host (bank vole, Myodes glareolus) undergo cyclic fluctuations. We conducted a 7-year capture-mark-recapture study to monitor seasonal and multiannual patterns of the PUUV infection rate in bank vole populations exhibiting a 3-year density cycle. Infected bank voles were most abundant in mid-winter months during years of increasing or peak host density. Prevalence of PUUV infection in bank voles exhibited a regular, seasonal pattern reflecting the annual population turnover and accumulation of infections within each year cohort. In autumn, the PUUV transmission rate tracked increasing host abundance, suggesting a density-dependent transmission. However, prevalence of PUUV infection was similar during the increase and peak years of the density cycle despite a twofold difference in host density. This may result from the high proportion of individuals carrying maternal antibodies constraining transmission during the cycle peak years. Our exceptionally intensive and long-term dataset provides a solid basis on which to develop models to predict the dynamic public health threat posed by PUUV in northern Europe.
Project description:Heterogeneity in environmental conditions helps to maintain genetic and phenotypic diversity in ecosystems. As such, it may explain why the capacity of animals to mount immune responses is highly variable. The quality of habitat patches, in terms of resources, parasitism, predation and habitat fragmentation may, for example, trigger trade-offs ultimately affecting the investment of individuals in various immunological pathways. We described spatial immunoheterogeneity in bank vole populations with respect to landscape features and co-infection. We focused on the consequences of this heterogeneity for the risk of Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) infection. We assessed the expression of the Tnf-? and Mx2 genes and demonstrated a negative correlation between PUUV load and the expression of these immune genes in bank voles. Habitat heterogeneity was partly associated with differences in the expression of these genes. Levels of Mx2 were lower in large forests than in fragmented forests, possibly due to differences in parasite communities. We previously highlighted the positive association between infection with Heligmosomum mixtum and infection with PUUV. We found that Tnf-? was more strongly expressed in voles infected with PUUV than in uninfected voles or in voles co-infected with the nematode H. mixtum and PUUV. H. mixtum may limit the capacity of the vole to develop proinflammatory responses. This effect may increase the risk of PUUV infection and replication in host cells. Overall, our results suggest that close interactions between landscape features, co-infection and immune gene expression may shape PUUV epidemiology.
Project description:To predict the risk of infectious diseases originating in wildlife, it is important to identify habitats that allow the co-occurrence of pathogens and their hosts. Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) is a directly-transmitted RNA virus that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans, and is carried and transmitted by the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). In northern Sweden, bank voles undergo 3-4 year population cycles, during which their spatial distribution varies greatly.We used boosted regression trees; a technique inspired by machine learning, on a 10 - year time-series (fall 2003-2013) to develop a spatial predictive model assessing seasonal PUUV hazard using micro-habitat variables in a landscape heavily modified by forestry. We validated the models in an independent study area approx. 200 km away by predicting seasonal presence of infected bank voles in a five-year-period (2007-2010 and 2015).The distribution of PUUV-infected voles varied seasonally and inter-annually. In spring, micro-habitat variables related to cover and food availability in forests predicted both bank vole and infected bank vole presence. In fall, the presence of PUUV-infected voles was generally restricted to spruce forests where cover was abundant, despite the broad landscape distribution of bank voles in general. We hypothesize that the discrepancy in distribution between infected and uninfected hosts in fall, was related to higher survival of PUUV and/or PUUV-infected voles in the environment, especially where cover is plentiful.Moist and mesic old spruce forests, with abundant cover such as large holes and bilberry shrubs, also providing food, were most likely to harbor infected bank voles. The models developed using long-term and spatially extensive data can be extrapolated to other areas in northern Fennoscandia. To predict the hazard of directly transmitted zoonoses in areas with unknown risk status, models based on micro-habitat variables and developed through machine learning techniques in well-studied systems, could be used.
Project description:Puumala virus (PUUV) in Europe causes nephropathia epidemica (NE), a mild form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). The incidence of NE is highly heterogeneous spatially, whereas the geographic distribution of the wild reservoir of PUUV, the bank vole, is essentially homogeneous. Our understanding of the processes driving this heterogeneity remains incomplete due to gaps in knowledge. Little is known about the current distribution and genetic variation of PUUV in the areas outside the well-identified zones of NE endemicity. We trapped bank voles in four forests in French regions in which NE is considered non-endemic, but sporadic NE cases have been reported recently. We tested bank voles for anti-PUUV IgG and characterized the S segment sequences of PUUV from seropositive animals. Phylogenetic analyses revealed specific amino-acid signatures and genetic differences between PUUV circulating in non-endemic and nearby NE-endemic areas. We also showed, in temporal surveys, that the amino-acid sequences of PUUV had undergone fewer recent changes in areas non-endemic for NE than in endemic areas. The evolutionary history of the current French PUUV clusters was investigated by phylogeographic approaches, and the results were considered in the context of the history of French forests. Our findings highlight the need to monitor the circulation and genetics of PUUV in a larger array of bank vole populations, to improve our understanding of the risk of NE.
Project description:Puumala virus (PUUV) is a major cause of mild to moderate haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome and is transmitted by the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). There has been a high cumulative incidence of recorded human cases in South-eastern Germany since 2004 when the region was first recognized as being endemic for PUUV. As the area is well known for outdoor recreation and the Bavarian Forest National Park (BFNP) is located in the region, the increasing numbers of recorded cases are of concern. To understand the population and environmental effects on the seroprevalence of PUUV in bank voles we trapped small mammals at 23 sites along an elevation gradient from 317 to 1420m above sea level. Generalized linear mixed effects models(GLMEM) were used to explore associations between the seroprevalence of PUUV in bank voles and climate and biotic factors. We found that the seroprevalence of PUUV was low (6%-7%) in 2008 and 2009, and reached 29% in 2010. PUUV seroprevalence was positively associated with the local species diversity and deadwood layer, and negatively associated with mean annual temperature, mean annual solar radiation, and herb layer. Based on these findings, an illustrative risk map for PUUV seroprevalence prediction in bank voles was created for an area of the national park. The map will help when planning infrastructure in the national park (e.g., huts, shelters, and trails).