Spatial and Temporal Dynamics and Molecular Evolution of Tula orthohantavirus in German Vole Populations
Tula orthohantavirus (TULV) is a rodent-borne hantavirus with broad geographical distribution in Europe. Its major reservoir is the common vole (Microtus arvalis), but TULV has also been detected in closely related vole species. Given the large distributional range and high amplitude population dynamics of common voles, this host–pathogen complex presents an ideal system to study the complex mechanisms of pathogen transmission in a wild rodent reservoir. We investigated the dynamics of TULV prevalence and the subsequent potential effects on the molecular evolution of TULV in common voles of the Central evolutionary lineage. Rodents were trapped for three years in four regions of Germany and samples were analyzed for the presence of TULV-reactive antibodies and TULV RNA with subsequent sequence determination. The results show that individual (sex) and population-level factors (abundance) of hosts were significant predictors of local TULV dynamics. At the large geographic scale, different phylogenetic TULV clades and an overall isolation-by-distance pattern in virus sequences were detected, while at the small scale (<4 km) this depended on the study area. In combination with an overall delayed density dependence, our results highlight that frequent, localized bottleneck events for the common vole and TULV do occur and can be offset by local recolonization dynamics.