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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2005 Winter;5(4):315-23.

Habitat factors associated with bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) and concomitant hantavirus in northern Sweden.

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Department of Animal Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden.


Puumala virus (PUUV), genus hantavirus, causes nephropathia epidemica, a mild form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in humans. In this study, bank voles, the natural reservoir of PUUV, were captured at locations of previous human PUUV exposure and paired controls within a region of high incidence in northern Sweden. The aim of the study was to evaluate the influence of environmental factors on the abundance of bank voles and the occurrence of PUUV. The total number of voles and the number of PUUV-infected voles did not differ between locations of previous human PUUV exposure and paired controls. The number of bank voles expressing antibodies to PUUV infection increased linearly with total bank vole abundance implying density independent transmission. Using principal component and partial correlation analysis, we found that particular environmental characteristics associated with old-growth moist forests (i.e., those dominated by Alectoria spp., Picea abies, fallen wood, and Vaccinium myrtillus) were also associated with increased abundance of bank vole and hence the number of PUUV-infected bank voles, whereas there were no correlations with factors associated with dry environments (i.e., Pinus sylvestris and V. vitis-idea). This suggests that circulation and persistence of PUUV within bank vole populations was influenced by habitat factors. Future modeling of risk of exposure to hantavirus and transmission of PUUV within vole populations should include the influence of these factors.

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