National Reference Laboratory for hantavirus
Institute for Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Rainer G. Ulrich, Martin Eiden
Hantaviruses, family Bunyaviridae, are zoonotic pathogens that are transmitted to humans by persistently infected rodents. Over the past few years, hantaviruses have also been detected in increasing numbers in shrews and moles. So far, it remains unclear whether they are pathogenic for humans. In Europe at least three hantavirus species pathogenic to humans are present. Human infections may result in a haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome of different severity. More than 90% of all human hantavirus infections recorded in Germany are caused by Puumala virus (PUUV). Additional hantaviruses in Germany are the Dobrava-Belgrade-Virus (DOBV) and the Tulavirus (TULV). Also the shrew-associated Seewis virus is found in Germany. So far it is unknown whether hantaviruses can infect and cause disease in companion animals.
For the surveillance of the hantavirus situation a monitoring of rodent reservoirs is being performed in the frame of the network “Rodent-borne pathogens”. This monitoring is mainly focused on wild-living rodents from hantavirus outbreak regions in Baden-Wuerttemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria, but also from other federal states. After a serological screening of pleural fluid samples by IgG-ELISAs using homologous recombinant antigens, lung samples will be studied by RT-PCR analysis.