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PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5461. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005461. Epub 2009 May 6.

Experimental evidence for reduced rodent diversity causing increased hantavirus prevalence.

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Museum of Southwestern Biology and Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.


Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases have become a major global environmental problem with important public health, economic, and political consequences. The etiologic agents of most emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and anthropogenic environmental changes that affect wildlife communities are increasingly implicated in disease emergence and spread. Although increased disease incidence has been correlated with biodiversity loss for several zoonoses, experimental tests in these systems are lacking. We manipulated small-mammal biodiversity by removing non-reservoir species in replicated field plots in Panama, where zoonotic hantaviruses are endemic. Both infection prevalence of hantaviruses in wild reservoir (rodent) populations and reservoir population density increased where small-mammal species diversity was reduced. Regardless of other variables that affect the prevalence of directly transmitted infections in natural communities, high biodiversity is important in reducing transmission of zoonotic pathogens among wildlife hosts. Our results have wide applications in both conservation biology and infectious disease management.

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