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Ecology. 2007 Aug;88(8):1911-6.

Endemic hantavirus infection impairs the winter survival of its rodent host.

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Department of Biological and Environmental Science, P.O. Box 35, FIN-40014, University of Jyväiskylä, Finland.


The influence of pathogens on host fitness is one of the key questions in infection ecology. Hantaviruses have coevolved with their hosts and are generally thought to have little or no effect on host survival or reproduction. We examined the effect of Puumala virus (PUUV) infection on the winter survival of bank voles (Myodes glareolus), the host of this virus. The data were collected by monitoring 22 islands over three consecutive winters (a total of 55 island populations) in an endemic area of central Finland. We show that PUUV infected bank voles had a significantly lower overwinter survival probability than antibody negative bank voles. Antibody negative female bank voles from low-density populations living on large islands had the highest survival. The results were similar at the population level as the spring population size and density were negatively correlated with PUUV prevalence in the autumn. Our results provide the first evidence for a significant effect of PUUV on host survival suggesting that hantaviruses, and endemic pathogens in general, deserve even more attention in studies of host population dynamics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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