Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hantavirus Found in African Wood Mouse

20.04.2006
Researchers have discovered the first African hantavirus, a type of rodent-borne virus that can cause life-threatening infections in humans when it is inhaled through aerosolized rodent urine or droppings.

A team led by Jan ter Meulen while he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) international research scholar at the University of Conakry in the Republic of Guinea, identified the new virus in an African wood mouse (Hylomiscus simus) in Sangassou, Guinea. Their findings are published in the May 2006 issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published early online on April 18, 2006.

“The discovery of an African hantavirus will significantly advance the understanding of hantavirus evolution and of rodent evolution”

Jan ter Meulen

"This discovery represents the first genetic evidence for the presence of hantaviruses in Africa," said ter Meulen, who also holds a position at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. "This novel hantavirus is related to viruses that cause severe disease in humans in Central and Eastern Europe."

European and Asian hantaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), a group of similar illnesses with symptoms including, fever, kidney failure, and bleeding. The viruses are carried by a number of rodents, including the brown rat, the striped field mouse, and the yellow-necked mouse. If left untreated, mortality can be as high as 15 percent.

Hantavirus was not seen in the Americas until 1993, when it killed approximately 20 people in the western United States. The American virus causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome: fever, chills, and severe muscle pain, followed by respiratory distress. Nearly four in 10 cases are fatal. Initially called "Four Corners Disease," the malady was later traced to a previously unknown hantavirus carried by the deer mouse.

The team has suggested calling the virus they found the Sangassou virus, for the region in which it was found. This follows tradition; in 1976, the first hantavirus was found near—and named for—the Hantaan River near Seoul, South Korea.

"We don’t yet know what symptoms the Sangassou virus might cause or how virulent it is," said ter Meulen, "but we have already obtained preliminary evidence that the Sangassou virus can infect humans, because we identified hantavirus-specific neutralizing antibodies in [the blood] of humans living in the area where the virus was detected. We do not know if these people suffered from an HFRS-like illness, but studies to determine this are in progress."

Ter Meulen said, however, that there’s little cause for alarm; this is not the next bird flu. Like each of the more than two dozen other types of hantavirus, Sangassou virus is carried by only one host species—limiting its spread to the natural range of the African wood mouse, from southern Guinea across parts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast, to Ghana.

This one-to-one pairing of virus with host also means that the Sangassou discovery has implications for rodent classification, said ter Meulen. "According to the co-evolution hypothesis, the phylogeny (evolutionary history) of viruses that are restricted to a host species mirrors the phylogeny of their respective hosts," he explained. "So the discovery of an African hantavirus will significantly advance the understanding of hantavirus evolution and of rodent evolution."

The researchers originally collected hundreds of African rodents during a study of the variability of Lassa virus—another rodent-borne virus—in its hosts and in humans. They started looking for an African hantavirus in their unique, West African rodent collection because no hantaviruses had previously been reported from Africa, and they had the technology for detecting unknown hantaviruses. "We are also planning to look for other emerging viruses in our rodent collection," said ter Meulen.

To isolate the virus, the team collected blood samples from more than 600 rodents. Using a technique called reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the scientists searched each sample for a segment of RNA characteristic of hantaviruses. They found a match in one of the four African wood mice in the study.

After finding the virus, the group cloned and sequenced it and compared it with known hantaviruses. The new virus shares approximately 75 percent of its nucleotides and 85 percent of its amino acids with Asian and European hantaviruses. "Those observed differences are large enough to allow its classification as a novel hantavirus," said ter Meulen. The new virus appears most closely related to the Dobrava virus, originally discovered in Slovenia.

The researchers have also grown the virus in cell culture, which is notoriously difficult to do with hantaviruses. Now they can easily test to see which antibodies react with the virus and how strongly they react. Antibody reactivity comparisons are another way to determine genetic relationships among viruses. Isolation of the virus is also required for development of a vaccine.

The scientists also are planning to develop and assess a diagnostic test for infection. The work will be done in Guinea, where the group operates an HHMI-supported virological laboratory.

"Other researchers will probably now screen their rodent biopsy collections for similar African hantaviruses based on the sequence information of the Sangassou virus," said ter Meulen.

In addition to ter Meulen, authors of the article detailing the discovery include Boris Klempa, Detlev Kruger, Brita Auste and Helga Meisel, from the Institute of Virology of the Charité in Berlin (Klempa is also affiliated with the Institute of Virology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic); Elisabeth Fichet-Calvet and Christiane Denys of the Museum of Natural History, Paris; Emilie Lecompte of the Institute of Virology, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany; Vladimir Aniskin of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow; and Lamine Koivogui of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Project, Conakry, Guinea.

Jennifer Donovan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hhmi.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>