Publication details

Arenaviruses and hantaviruses in Eastern Africa - preliminary results



Year of publication 2012
Type Conference abstract
Description Members of genera Arenavirus and Hantavirus are single-stranded RNA viruses that can cause diseases such as hemorrhagic fever and cardiopulmonary syndrome, and thus represent a significant epidemiological risk. These viruses are mainly transmitted through contact with secreta or excreta of their natural hosts, rodents or soricomorphs (shrews and moles). Three exceptions are the New World Tacaribe arenavirus and two novel African hantaviruses, isolated from bats. Viruses pathogenic to humans are e.g. the worldwide widespread hantavirus Seoul or the arenavirus Lassa, causing hemorrhagic fever in West Africa with 300-500 thousands estimated human infections and approximately 5.000 deaths annually. Recent studies indicate that the diversity of these viruses is still very underestimated and attention should be given to their description. While arenaviruses are intensively studied in Americas and hantaviruses in Europe and Asia, Africa has been largely overlooked in last decades. Our aim is to analyse an already existing large collection of samples of small mammals from Eastern Africa (from Ethiopia to Mozambique) and to identify novel virus strains or species. Based on these data, we will test for co-speciation (co-evolution) versus host switching as processes driving virus evolution. Here, we molecularly screened 201 small mammals from Ethiopia for arenaviruses and hantaviruses. Among them, 1 Mastomys awashensis and 2 Stenocephalemys albipes were positive for arenaviruses related to the nonpathogenic Mobala virus and 10 Stenocephalemys albipes were carriers of a novel hantavirus (Tigray virus). These results are very promising and will be important for understanding the evolution of these important groups of viruses.

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