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Presence and Diversity of Different Enteric Viruses in Wild Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus)

Rodents are common reservoirs for numerous zoonotic pathogens, but knowledge about diversity of pathogens in rodents is still limited. Here, we investigated the occurrence and genetic diversity of enteric viruses in 51 Norway rats collected in three different countries in Europe. RNA of at least one virus was detected in the intestine of 49 of 51 animals. Astrovirus RNA was detected in 46 animals, mostly of rat astroviruses. Human astrovirus (HAstV-8) RNA was detected in one, rotavirus group A (RVA) RNA was identified in eleven animals. One RVA RNA could be typed as rat G3 type. Rat hepatitis E virus (HEV) RNA was detected in five animals. Two entire genome sequences of ratHEV were determined. Human norovirus RNA was detected in four animals with the genotypes GI.P4-GI.4, GII.P33-GII.1, and GII.P21. In one animal, a replication competent coxsackievirus A20 strain was detected. Additionally, RNA of an enterovirus species A strain was detected in the same animal, albeit in a different tissue. The results show a high detection rate and diversity of enteric viruses in Norway rats in Europe and indicate their significance as vectors for zoonotic transmission of enteric viruses. The detailed role of Norway rats and transmission pathways of enteric viruses needs to be investigated in further studies.

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