Drivers of pathogen transmission in the system hanta-virus-bank vole-humans
Rodents can carry a wide range of zoonotic pathogens that can cause mild to severe illness in humans. Some species show occasional population outbreaks, which can affect pathogen epidemiology and human infection risk. In Europe, the widely distributed bank vole (Myodes glareolus) is the reservoir species for the Puumala virus (PUUV), a hantavirus species causing a mild to moderate form of the haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in humans. Population dynamics of bank voles were monitored by live trapping 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 were analysed to detect PUUV specific antibodies. Furthermore, time series (2001-2012) of beech fructification (as a primary food resource for the PUUV host), bank vole abundance and human PUUV incidence from 7 Federal States of Germany were examined to un-cover the link between these three parameters involved in human PUUV epidemics. Results show that multi-annual and seasonal rodent host population dynamics affect fluctuations of PUUV seroprevalence. Human PUUV infections strongly depend on the current bank vole abundance and on the preceding beech fructification on large spatial scale. Our findings provide robust estimation of relevant patterns and ecological processes of the dynamics of PUUV epidemiology in Central Europe, which are useful to facilitate the development of predictive models to protect public health.