Hantavirus seroprevalence and genetic confirmation of hantaviruses in eastern New Mexico rodent assemblages

Project Investigator:  Ivana Mali

Project Description:  New Mexico is the leading state in cumulative cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome; however, very little is known about the hantaviruses among wildlife populations especially in the eastern portion of the state. While several species of rodents are known reservoirs of hantavirus (i.e., deer mouse, hispid cotton rat, etc.), we know little about other species within rodent assemblages. Given the lack of information, my research will study hantaviruses on several different levels by broadly identifying infection prevalence to identifying specific hantavirus strains in wild rodent populations. The goal of this research is to survey prestine and human-altered landscapes and test blood samples of all captured rodents in search for hantavirus specific antibodies. I seek to use statistical models to correlate habitat characteristics and species richness with infection frequency. But because the presence of antibodies indicates exposure but does not confirm active viral infection nor determine host competence, the final goal is to use collected tissue samples (i.e., lung) and genetically confirm the presence of hantavirus in individuals found to test positive for antibodies. With this approach, I can identify competent hosts, potentially discover novel hosts, and find strains specific to eastern New Mexico.

Comments are closed.