10 years network “Rodent-borne pathogens"
Rodents are important as pests in agriculture and forestry, as model organisms for biomedical studies and as reservoirs for zoonotic pathogens. The network “Rodent-borne pathogens” was established as a platform for an interdisciplinary collaboration of scientists working in mammalogy, ecology, genetics, immunology, toxicol-ogy, epidemiology, virology, microbiology, parasitology and human and veterinary medicine. Major focus of the network is the interaction of infectious agents and their reservoirs. Previous work was mainly based on field studies to evaluate the geographical distribution and rodent host association of zoonotic pathogens, such as hantaviruses, orthopox viruses, Leptospira spp., Rickettsia spp. Ongoing studies of Puumala hantavirus consider the influence of bank vole reservoir population oscillation on the molecular evolution of the virus. Recent establishment of bank and common vole-derived cell lines allows studying factors involved in host specificity of selected pathogens. Pilot studies within the network resulted in the discovery of novel viruses, some of them with potential to serve as models of human pathogens, such as bank vole hepacivirus, closely related to human hepatitis C virus, or rat hepatitis E virus (HEV). Additionally, the combined expertise from different fields allows studying the interactions between pathogens at various functional, ecological and evolution-ary levels. Special emphasis is currently given on pathogens in Norway rats from breeding colonies, pest rats in zoos and from agricultural areas. In conclusion, the network provides an important infrastructure for ongoing collaboration that is highly beneficial for interdisciplinary scientific work with high relevance in several fields of research.