Preliminary insights into the genetics of bank vole tolerance to Puumala hantavirus in Sweden.
ABSTRACT: Natural reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens generally seem to be capable of tolerating infections. Tolerance and its underlying mechanisms remain difficult to assess using experiments or wildlife surveys. High-throughput sequencing technologies give the opportunity to investigate the genetic bases of tolerance, and the variability of its mechanisms in natural populations. In particular, population genomics may provide preliminary insights into the genes shaping tolerance and potentially influencing epidemiological dynamics. Here, we addressed these questions in the bank vole Myodes glareolus, the specific asymptomatic reservoir host of Puumala hantavirus (PUUV), which causes nephropathia epidemica (NE) in humans. Despite the continuous spatial distribution of M. glareolus in Sweden, NE is endemic to the northern part of the country. Northern bank vole populations in Sweden might exhibit tolerance strategies as a result of coadaptation with PUUV. This may favor the circulation and maintenance of PUUV and lead to high spatial risk of NE in northern Sweden. We performed a genome-scan study to detect signatures of selection potentially correlated with spatial variations in tolerance to PUUV. We analyzed six bank vole populations from Sweden, sampled from northern NE-endemic to southern NE-free areas. We combined candidate gene analyses (Tlr4, Tlr7, and Mx2 genes) and high-throughput sequencing of restriction site-associated DNA (RAD) markers. Outlier loci showed high levels of genetic differentiation and significant associations with environmental data including variations in the regional number of NE human cases. Among the 108 outliers that matched to mouse protein-coding genes, 14 corresponded to immune-related genes. The main biological pathways found to be significantly enriched corresponded to immune processes and responses to hantavirus, including the regulation of cytokine productions, TLR cascades, and IL-7, VEGF, and JAK-STAT signaling. In the future, genome-scan replicates and functional experimentations should enable to assess the role of these biological pathways in M. glareolus tolerance to PUUV.
Project description: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: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:Three species of Myodes voles known to harbor hantaviruses include the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), which serves as the reservoir host of Puumala virus (PUUV), the prototype arvicolid rodent-borne hantavirus causing hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Europe, and the grey red-backed vole (Myodes rufocanus) and royal vole (Myodes regulus) which carry two PUUV-like hantaviruses, designated Hokkaido virus (HOKV) and Muju virus (MUJV), respectively. To ascertain the hantavirus harbored by the northern red-backed vole (Myodes rutilus), we initially screened sera from 233 M. rutilus, as well as from 90 M. rufocanus and 110 M. glareolus, captured in western and eastern Siberia during June 2007 to October 2009, for anti-hantaviral antibodies. Thereafter, lung tissues from 44 seropositive voles were analyzed for hantavirus RNA by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Partial L-, M- and S-segment sequences, detected in M. rutilus and M. rufocanus, were closely related to HOKV, differing from previously published L-, M- and S-segment sequences of HOKV by 17.8-20.2%, 15.9-23.4% and 15.0-17.0% at the nucleotide level and 2.6-7.9%, 1.3-6.3% and 1.2-4.0% at the amino acid level, respectively. Alignment and comparison of hantavirus sequences from M. glareolus trapped in Tyumen Oblast showed very high sequence similarity to the Omsk lineage of PUUV. Phylogenetic analysis, using neighbor-joining, maximal likelihood and Bayesian methods, showed that HOKV strains shared a common ancestry with PUUV and exhibited geographic-specific clustering. This report provides the first molecular evidence that both M. rutilus and M. rufocanus harbor HOKV, which might represent a genetic variant of PUUV.
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: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:Human hantavirus disease cases, caused by Puumala virus (PUUV), are mainly recorded in western and southern areas of Germany. This bank vole reservoir survey confirmed PUUV presence in these regions but its absence in northern and eastern regions. PUUV occurrence is associated with the presence of the Western bank vole phylogroup.
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:For wildlife diseases, one often relies on host density to predict host infection prevalence and the subsequent force of infection to humans in the case of zoonoses. Indeed, if transmission is mainly indirect, i.e., by way of the environment, the force of infection is expected to increase with host density, yet the laborious field data supporting this theoretical claim are often absent. Hantaviruses are among those zoonoses that have been studied extensively over the past decades, as they pose a significant threat to humans. In Europe, the most widespread hantavirus is the Puumala virus (PUUV), which is carried by the bank vole and causes nephropathia epidemica (NE) in humans. Extensive field campaigns have been carried out in Central Finland to shed light on this supposed relationship between bank vole density and PUUV prevalence and to identify other drivers for the infection dynamics. This resulted in the surprising observation that the relationship between bank vole density and PUUV prevalence is not purely monotonic on an annual basis, contrary to what previous models predicted: a higher vole density does not necessary result in a higher infection prevalence, nor in an increased number of humans reported having NE. Here, we advance a novel individual-based spatially-explicit model which takes into account the immunity provided by maternal antibodies and which simulates the spatial behavior of the host, both possible causes for this discrepancy that were not accounted for in previous models. We show that the reduced prevalence in peak years can be attributed to transient immunity, and that the density-dependent spatial vole behavior, i.e., the fact that home ranges are smaller in high density years, plays only a minor role. The applicability of the model is not limited to the study and prediction of PUUV (and NE) occurrence in Europe, as it could be easily adapted to model other rodent-borne diseases, either with indirect or direct transmission.
Project description:Many viruses significantly impact human and animal health. Understanding the population dynamics of these viruses and their hosts can provide important insights for epidemiology and virus evolution. Puumala virus (PUUV) is a European hantavirus that may cause regional outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in humans. Here, we analyzed the spatiotemporal dynamics of PUUV circulating in local populations of its rodent reservoir host, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) during eight years. Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses of all three genome segments of PUUV showed strong geographical structuring at a very local scale. There was a high temporal turnover of virus strains in the local bank vole populations, but several virus strains persisted through multiple years. Phylodynamic analyses showed no significant changes in the local effective population sizes of PUUV, although vole numbers and virus prevalence fluctuated widely. Microsatellite data demonstrated also a temporally persisting subdivision between local vole populations, but these groups did not correspond to the subdivision in the virus strains. We conclude that restricted transmission between vole populations and genetic drift play important roles in shaping the genetic structure and temporal dynamics of PUUV in its natural host which has several implications for zoonotic risks of the human population.
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.