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Med Microbiol Immunol. 2011 Nov;200(4):263-8. doi: 10.1007/s00430-011-0203-4. Epub 2011 May 25.

Seroprevalence study in forestry workers of a non-endemic region in eastern Germany reveals infections by Tula and Dobrava-Belgrade hantaviruses.

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Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, OIE Collaborating Centre for Zoonoses in Europe, Südufer 10, 17493 Greifswald-Insel Riems, Germany.


Highly endemic and outbreak regions for human hantavirus infections are located in the southern, southeastern, and western parts of Germany. The dominant hantavirus is the bank vole transmitted Puumala virus (PUUV). In the eastern part of Germany, previous investigations revealed Tula virus (TULV) and Dobrava-Belgrade virus (DOBV) infections in the respective rodent reservoirs. Here, we describe a seroprevalence study in forestry workers from Brandenburg, eastern Germany, using IgG ELISA and immunoblot tests based on recombinant TULV, DOBV, and PUUV antigens. Out of the 563 sera tested, 499 from male and 64 from female workers, we found 41 out of the 499 (8.2%) sera from men (mean age 47 years) and 10 out of 64 (15.6%) from the women (mean age 48 years) anti-hantavirus-positive. The majority of the 51 seropositive samples reacted exclusively in the TULV (n=22) and DOBV tests (n=17). Focus reduction neutralization assay investigations on selected sera confirmed the presence of TULV- and DOBV-specific antibodies in the forestry workers. These investigations demonstrated a potential health threat for forestry workers and also the average population in non-endemic geographical regions where TULV and DOBV are circulating in the corresponding reservoir hosts. The infections in this region might be frequently overlooked due to their unspecific and mild symptoms.

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