Rodents

Last update: 15 March 2011

Among the rodent and insectivore-borne diseases (rainbo) Hantavirus (Bunyaviridae) infections have a significant public health impact both in Europe and globally. Apart from the high fatality rate caused by some Hantaviruses, they cause considerable disease burden. They are emerging infections (they are found in new areas) and the incidence has grown too in several established endemic regions. Recent work conducted under the EDEN project discovered new groups of potential zoonotic agents borne by rodents and other small mammals in Europe.

Beyond their role in rainbo diseases, rodents and insectivores are also the hosts of many arthropod species. EDENext is seeking to assess the joint diversity and abundance of small (rodents and insectivores) and larger (such as cervids or domestic ruminants) reservoir hosts, arthropod vectors and pathogen agents for a better understanding of their joint dynamics. EDENext will also be assessing the influence of major environmental factors such as land cover or land use and masting in deciduous forest regions (during mast years, vegetation produces a significant abundance of fruit). Assembling the different pieces of knowledge for the ecosystems of interest will provide a better basis for planning more efficient disease monitoring and early warning systems.

For the grand scheme of rainbo disease dynamics and risks for humans in Europe, EDENext believes we need to understand the roles of geographically varying rodent population dynamics and differences in landscape structure. The project is addressing a number of knowledge gaps to achieve this, including:

1. The role of regional small species diversity affecting pathogen transmission in the carrier species.

2. The impacts of environmental physical conditions on pathogen survival outside the host, which is also relevant for transmission among rodents and to humans.

3. The importance of host species immunogenetics in the risks of rainbo emergence.

4. The role of secondary or spill-over species in pathogen maintenance.

5. The temporal patterns of virus shedding by rodent hosts, which is the critical parameter for Hantavirus risk modelling.

6. New Ro modelling will be used to understand the various spreading patterns of rainbos, using recently collected field data, supported by landscape epidemiological models using detailed spatial genetic data and related new software.

Last update: 15 March 2011

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