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Experimental Cowpox Virus (CPXV) Infections of Bank Voles: Exceptional Clinical Resistance and Variable Reservoir Competence

Cowpox virus (CPXV) is a zoonotic virus and endemic in wild rodent populations in Eurasia. Serological surveys in Europe have reported high prevalence in different vole and mouse species. Here, we report on experimental CPXV infections of bank voles (Myodes glareolus) from different evolutionary lineages with a spectrum of CPXV strains. All bank voles, independently of lineage, sex and age, were resistant to clinical signs following CPXV inoculation, and no virus shedding was detected in nasal or buccal swabs. In-contact control animals became only rarely infected. However, depending on the CPXV strain used, inoculated animals seroconverted and viral DNA could be detected preferentially in the upper respiratory tract. The highest antibody titers and virus DNA loads in the lungs were detected after inoculation with two strains from Britain and Finland. We conclude from our experiments that the role of bank voles as an efficient and exclusive CPXV reservoir seems questionable, and that CPXV may be maintained in most regions by other hosts, including other vole species. Further investigations are needed to identify factors that allow and modulate CPXV maintenance in bank voles and other potential reservoirs, which may also influence spill-over infections to accidental hosts.



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