High genetic structuring of Tula hantavirus
Tula virus (TULV) is a vole-associated hantavirus with low or no pathogenicity to humans. In the present study, 686 common voles (Microtus arvalis), 249 field voles (Microtus agrestis) and 30 water voles (Arvicola spec.) were collected at 79 sites in Germany, Luxembourg and France and screened by RT-PCR and TULV-IgG ELISA. TULV-specific RNA and/or antibodies were detected at 43 of the sites, demonstrating a geographically widespread distribution of the virus in the studied area. The TULV prevalence in common voles (16.7 %) was higher than that in field voles (9.2 %) and water voles (10.0 %). Time series data at ten trapping sites showed evidence of a lasting presence of TULV RNA within common vole populations for up to 34 months, although usually at low prevalence. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated a strong genetic structuring of TULV sequences according to geography and independent of the rodent species, confirming the common vole as the preferential host, with spillover infections to co-occurring field and water voles. TULV phylogenetic clades showed a general association with evolutionary lineages in the common vole as assessed by mitochondrial DNA sequences on a large geographical scale, but with local-scale discrepancies in the contact areas.