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J Vector Ecol. 2009 Jun;34(1):9-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2009.00003.x.

Bayou virus detected in non-oryzomyine rodent hosts: an assessment of habitat composition, reservoir community structure, and marsh rice rat social dynamics.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-3131, USA.


In the United States, Bayou virus (BAYV) ranks second only to Sin Nombre virus (SNV) in terms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) incidents, having been confirmed in cases from Texas and Louisiana since its discovery in 1994. This study on BAYV infection among sympatric, non-oryzomyine rodents ("spillover") in Freeport, TX, is the first to link patterns of hantavirus interspecific spillover with the spatiotemporal ecology of the primary host (marsh rice rat, Oryzomys palustris). Mark-recapture and/or harvest methods were employed from March 2002 through May 2004 in two macrohabitat types. Rodent blood samples were screened for the presence of IgG antibody to BAYV antigen by IFA after which Ab-positive blood, saliva, and urine were analyzed for the presence of viral RNA by nested RT-PCR. From 727 non-oryzomyine captures, five seropositive (but not viral RNA positive) individuals were detected: one each of Baiomys taylori, Peromyscus leucopus, and Reithrodontomys fulvescens; and two Sigmodon hispidus. Spillover hosts were not associated with macrohabitat where O. palustris abundance, density, or seroprevalence was highest. Rather, spillover occurred in the macrohabitat indicative of greater overall disturbance (as indicated by grazing and exotic plant diversity) and overall biodiversity. Spillover occurred during periods of high seroprevalence detected elsewhere within the study region. Spillover locations differed significantly from all other capture locations in terms of percent water, shrub, and grass cover. Although greater habitat and mammal diversity of old-fields may serve to reduce seroprevalence levels by tempering intraspecific contacts between rice rats, greater diversity also may create an ecologically opportunistic setting for BAYV spillover. Impacts of varying levels of disturbance and biodiversity on transmission dynamics represent a vastly uncharacterized component of the evolutionary ecology of hantaviruses.

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