• Geographical Distribution and Genetic Diversity of Bank Vole Hepaciviruses in Europe.

      Schneider, Julia; Hoffmann, Bernd; Fevola, Cristina; Schmidt, Marie Luisa; Imholt, Christian; Fischer, Stefan; Ecke, Frauke; Hörnfeldt, Birger; Magnusson, Magnus; Olsson, Gert E; et al. (2021-06-28)
      The development of new diagnostic methods resulted in the discovery of novel hepaciviruses in wild populations of the bank vole (Myodes glareolus, syn. Clethrionomys glareolus). The naturally infected voles demonstrate signs of hepatitis similar to those induced by hepatitis C virus (HCV) in humans. The aim of the present research was to investigate the geographical distribution of bank vole-associated hepaciviruses (BvHVs) and their genetic diversity in Europe. Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) screening revealed BvHV RNA in 442 out of 1838 (24.0%) bank voles from nine European countries and in one of seven northern red-backed voles (Myodes rutilus, syn. Clethrionomys rutilus). BvHV RNA was not found in any other small mammal species (n = 23) tested here. Phylogenetic and isolation-by-distance analyses confirmed the occurrence of both BvHV species (Hepacivirus F and Hepacivirus J) and their sympatric occurrence at several trapping sites in two countries. The broad geographical distribution of BvHVs across Europe was associated with their presence in bank voles of different evolutionary lineages. The extensive geographical distribution and high levels of genetic diversity of BvHVs, as well as the high population fluctuations of bank voles and occasional commensalism in some parts of Europe warrant future studies on the zoonotic potential of BvHVs.
    • Geographical Distribution of Ljungan Virus in Small Mammals in Europe.

      Fevola, Cristina; Rossi, Chiara; Rosso, Fausta; Girardi, Matteo; Rosà, Roberto; Manica, Mattia; Delucchi, Luca; Rocchini, Duccio; Garzon-Lopez, Carol X; Arnoldi, Daniele; et al. (2020-06-02)
      Ljungan virus (LV), which belongs to the Parechovirus genus in the Picornaviridae family, was first isolated from bank voles (Myodes glareolus) in Sweden in 1998 and proposed as a zoonotic agent. To improve knowledge of the host association and geographical distribution of LV, tissues from 1685 animals belonging to multiple rodent and insectivore species from 12 European countries were screened for LV-RNA using reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR. In addition, we investigated how the prevalence of LV-RNA in bank voles is associated with various intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We show that LV is widespread geographically, having been detected in at least one host species in nine European countries. Twelve out of 21 species screened were LV-RNA PCR positive, including, for the first time, the red vole (Myodes rutilus) and the root or tundra vole (Alexandromys formerly Microtus oeconomus), as well as in insectivores, including the bicolored white-toothed shrew (Crocidura leucodon) and the Valais shrew (Sorex antinorii). Results indicated that bank voles are the main rodent host for this virus (overall RT-PCR prevalence: 15.2%). Linear modeling of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that could impact LV prevalence showed a concave-down relationship between body mass and LV occurrence, so that subadults had the highest LV positivity, but LV in older animals was less prevalent. Also, LV prevalence was higher in autumn and lower in spring, and the amount of precipitation recorded during the 6 months preceding the trapping date was negatively correlated with the presence of the virus. Phylogenetic analysis on the 185 base pair species-specific sequence of the 5' untranslated region identified high genetic diversity (46.5%) between 80 haplotypes, although no geographical or host-specific patterns of diversity were detected.