Survey for hantaviruses, tick-borne encephalitis virus, and Rickettsia spp. in small rodents in Croatia.Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2014 Jul; 14(7):523-30.VB
In Croatia, several rodent- and vector-borne agents are endemic and of medical importance. In this study, we investigated hantaviruses and, for the first time, tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and Rickettsia spp. in small wild rodents from two different sites (mountainous and lowland region) in Croatia. In total, 194 transudate and tissue samples from 170 rodents (A. flavicollis, n=115; A. agrarius, n=2; Myodes glareolus, n=53) were tested for antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence assays (IIFT) and for nucleic acids by conventional (hantaviruses) and real-time RT-/PCRs (TBEV and Rickettsia spp.). A total of 25.5% (24/94) of the rodents from the mountainous area revealed specific antibodies against hantaviruses. In all, 21.3% (20/94) of the samples from the mountainous area and 29.0% (9/31) from the lowland area yielded positive results for either Puumala virus (PUUV) or Dobrava-Belgrade virus (DOBV) using a conventional RT-PCR. All processed samples (n=194) were negative for TBEV by IIFT or real-time RT-PCR. Serological evidence of rickettsial infection was detected in 4.3% (4/94) rodents from the mountainous region. Another 3.2% (3/94) rodents were positive for Rickettsia spp. by real-time PCR. None of the rodents (n=76) from the lowland area were positive for Rickettsia spp. by real-time PCR. Dual infection of PUUV and Rickettsia spp. was found in one M. glareolus from the mountainous area by RT-PCR and real-time PCR, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first detection of Rickettsia spp. in small rodents from Croatia. Phylogenetic analyses of S- and M-segment sequences obtained from the two study sites revealed well-supported subgroups in Croatian PUUV and DOBV. Although somewhat limited, our data showed occurrence and prevalence of PUUV, DOBV, and rickettsiae in Croatia. Further studies are warranted to confirm these data and to determine the Rickettsia species present in rodents in these areas.