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Health And Vectors In Ecology-traducido

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Ecologic Studies of Rodent Reservoirs:

Their Relevance for Human Health

James N. Mills and James E. Childs

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Address for correspondence: James N. Mills, Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, Mail Stop

G14, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA; fax: 404-639-4436; e-mail:

Within the past few years, the number of “new” human diseases associated with

small-mammal reservoirs has increased dramatically, stimulating renewed interest in

reservoir ecology research. A consistent, integrative approach to such research allows

direct comparisons between studies, contributes to the efficient use of resources and

data, and increases investigator safety. We outline steps directed toward understanding

vertebrate host ecology as it relates to human disease and illustrate the relevance of

each step by using examples from studies of hosts associated with rodent-borne

hemorrhagic fever viruses.

The practical importance of understanding

host and vector ecology has been recognized at

least since the early 1900s. Knowledge of the

container-breeding habits of Aedes aegypti

enabled early successes in the control of yellow

fever virus transmission and, ultimately, the

completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 (1).

Diverse applications of vector/reservoir ecologybased

measures to prevent zoonotic disease

include the prediction of Lyme disease risk by

monitoring acorn mast production and its impact

on the vertebrate hosts of the tick vectors (2),

control of vector populations for Borrelia

burgdorferi and Yersinia pestis through the

application of acaricides and insecticides to

rodents and deer at feeding stations (3,4),

dissemination of bait containing vaccines to

control rabies in foxes (5), and use of satellite

imagery to predict the activity of Rift Valley

fever in East Africa (6,7).

The rodent-borne hemorrhagic fevers, among

the most dramatic of recently emerging

infectious diseases, are caused by two distinct

groups of negative-stranded RNA viruses: the

arenaviruses (family Arenaviridae) and the

hantaviruses (genus Hantavirus, family

Bunyaviridae). With few exceptions, each virus

in these two groups is primarily associated with

a single species of rodent host of the family

Muridae. In the specific host, the virus

establishes a prolonged infection, which rarely

causes disease in the animal. The infected host

sheds virus into the environment (in urine, feces,

and saliva) for extended periods (8-10). These

characteristics are key to the transmission of the

viruses to humans (by the inhalation of

aerosolized virus) and to other rodents (by

horizontal and sometimes vertical mechanisms).

Arenaviruses cause the South American

hemorrhagic fevers, which produce hundreds of

cases annually, with a case-fatality ratio as high

as 33%. The best studied of these agents is Junín

virus, which is carried by the corn mouse

(Calomys musculinus) and causes Argentine

hemorrhagic fever (AHF). AHF was first

recognized in 1955 on the central pampas of

Argentina (11), where before the deployment of a

new vaccine in 1992, hundreds of cases occurred

each year. Although arenaviral diseases of

humans (other than lymphocytic choriomeningitis

associated with the introduced Old World

rodent Mus musculus) have not been recognized

in North America, Tamiami virus has been

recognized in association with cotton rats

(Sigmodon hispidus) since 1969 (12), and

Whitewater Arroyo virus was identified from

wood rats (Neotoma species) in the southwestern

United States in 1995 (13). The potential of

Whitewater Arroyo virus for causing human

disease is under investigation.

Hantaviruses cause hundreds of thousands

of cases of hemorrhagic fever with renal

syndrome (HFRS) in Europe and Asia each year.

Hantaviral disease was thought to be rare or

Ecologic Studies of Rodent Reservoirs:

Their Relevance for Human Health

James N. Mills and James E. Childs


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