Puumala hantavirus infections in bank vole populations: host and virus dynamics in Central Europe
Background In Europe, bank voles (Myodes glareolus) are widely distributed and can transmit Puumala virus (PUUV) to humans, which causes a mild to moderate form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, called nephropathia epidemica. Uncovering the link between host and virus dynamics can help to prevent human PUUV infections in the future. Bank voles were live trapped three times a year in 2010–2013 in three woodland plots in each of four regions in Germany. Bank vole population density was estimated and blood samples collected to detect PUUV specific antibodies. Results We demonstrated that fluctuation of PUUV seroprevalence is dependent not only on multi-annual but also on seasonal dynamics of rodent host abundance. Moreover, PUUV infection might affect host fitness, because seropositive individuals survived better from spring to summer than uninfected bank voles. Individual space use was independent of PUUV infections. Conclusions Our study provides robust estimations of relevant patterns and processes of the dynamics of PUUV and its rodent host in Central Europe, which are highly important for the future development of predictive models for human hantavirus infection risk.