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Tropism of Puumala orthohantavirus and Endoparasite Coinfection in the Bank Vole Reservoir

In Europe, most cases of human hantavirus disease are caused by Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) transmitted by bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus, syn. Myodes glareolus), in which PUUV causes inconspicuous infection. Little is known about tropism and endoparasite coinfections in PUUV-infected reservoir and spillover-infected rodents. Here, we characterized PUUV tropism, pathological changes and endoparasite coinfections. The voles and some non-reservoir rodents were examined histologically, immunohistochemically, by in situ hybridization, indirect IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. PUUV RNA and anti-PUUV antibodies were detected simultaneously in a large proportion of the bank voles, indicating persistent infection. Although PUUV RNA was not detected in non-reservoir rodents, the detection of PUUV-reactive antibodies suggests virus contact. No specific gross and histological findings were detected in the infected bank voles. A broad organ tropism of PUUV was observed: kidney and stomach were most frequently infected. Remarkably, PUUV was detected in cells lacking the typical secretory capacity, which may contribute to the maintenance of virus persistence. PUUV-infected wild bank voles were found to be frequently coinfected with Hepatozoon spp. and Sarcocystis (Frenkelia) spp., possibly causing immune modulation that may influence susceptibility to PUUV infection or vice versa. The results are a prerequisite for a deeper understanding of virus–host interactions in natural hantavirus reservoirs.

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