Assessing the Diversity of Rodent-Borne Viruses: Exploring of High-Throughput Sequencing and Classical Amplification/Sequencing Approaches
Rodents are distributed throughout the world and interact with humans in many ways. They provide vital ecosystem services, some species are useful models in biomedical research and some are held as pet animals. However, many rodent species can have adverse effects such as damage to crops and stored produce, and they are of health concern because of the transmission of pathogens to humans and livestock. The first rodent viruses were discovered by isolation approaches and resulted in break-through knowledge in immunology, molecular and cell biology, and cancer research. In addition to rodent-specific viruses, rodent-borne viruses are causing a large number of zoonotic diseases. Most prominent examples are reemerging outbreaks of human hemorrhagic fever disease cases caused by arena- and hantaviruses. In addition, rodents are reservoirs for vector-borne pathogens, such as tick-borne encephalitis virus and Borrelia spp., and may carry human pathogenic agents, but likely are not involved in their transmission to human. In our days, next-generation sequencing or high-throughput sequencing (HTS) is revolutionizing the speed of the discovery of novel viruses, but other molecular approaches, such as generic RT-PCR/PCR and rolling circle amplification techniques, contribute significantly to the rapidly ongoing process. However, the current knowledge still represents only the tip of the iceberg, when comparing the known human viruses to those known for rodents, the mammalian taxon with the largest species number. The diagnostic potential of HTS-based metagenomic approaches is illustrated by their use in the discovery and complete genome determination of novel borna- and adenoviruses as causative disease agents in squirrels. In conclusion, HTS, in combination with conventional RT-PCR/PCR-based approaches, resulted in a drastically increased knowledge of the diversity of rodent viruses. Future improvements of the used workflows, including bioinformatics analysis, will further enhance our knowledge and preparedness in case of the emergence of novel viruses. Classical virological and additional molecular approaches are needed for genome annotation and functional characterization of novel viruses, discovered by these technologies, and evaluation of their zoonotic potential.
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