Why Hantavirus Prevalence Does Not Always Increase With Host Density: Modeling the Role of Host Spatial Behavior and Maternal Antibodies.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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: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 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: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: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: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:Puumala virus (PUUV) is the agent of nephropathia epidemica (NE), a mild form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) in Europe. NE incidence presents a high spatial variation throughout France, while the geographical distribution of the wild reservoir of PUUV, the bank vole, is rather continuous. A missing piece of the puzzle is the current distribution and the genetic variation of PUUV in France, which has been overlooked until now and remains poorly understood. During a population survey, from 2008 to 2011, bank voles were trapped in eight different forests of France located in areas known to be endemic for NE or in area from where no NE case has been reported until now. Bank voles were tested for immunoglobulin (Ig)G ELISA serology and two seropositive animals for each of three different areas (Ardennes, Jura and Orleans) were then subjected to laboratory analyses in order to sequence the whole S, M and L segments of PUUV. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that French PUUV isolates globally belong to the central European (CE) lineage although isolates from Ardennes are clearly distinct from those in Jura and Orleans, suggesting a different evolutionary history and origin of PUUV introduction in France. Sequence analyses revealed specific amino acid signatures along the N protein, including in PUUV from the Orleans region from where NE in humans has never been reported. The relevance of these mutations in term of pathophysiology is discussed.