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Title: Targeted surveillance for Ljungan virus and hantaviruses in UK rodents
Author: Pounder, Keiran Christopher
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2013
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Zoonoses are a significant threat to public health and can also be a considerable economic burden. A large proportion of zoonotic pathogens have rodent hosts that provide important connections between wildlife communities and humans. This thesis aimed to better understand the risk to humans from hantaviruses and Ljungan virus in the UK by targeting rodents from urban and semi-rural environments, by sampling domesticated pet rats and also by studying brown rats in and around Lyon (France). Hantaviruses are zoonotic and cause haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in Europe, but their presence in the UK had never been confirmed. Ljungan virus (LV) has been associated with several human diseases in Europe, but has not been confirmed as zoonotic, although it has been detected in rural rodents in the UK. All samples were assayed for these viruses using PCR detection methods. Moreover, I used high throughput sequencing to quantify genomic variation in two new LV genomes to better understand the evolution of this group. I present molecular evidence of a novel hantavirus circulating in a rural rodent species within the UK, as well as a Rattus–associated hantavirus, Seoul virus, in pet rats in the UK and brown rats from Lyon. This study therefore not only adds confirmation of a novel hantavirus species circulating in the UK but also that Seoul virus might be more prevalent in European brown and pet rats than previously believed. Analyses of sequence variation (cytochrome b) of brown rats found few genetic differences, irrespective of infection status, country of origin and domestication, and thus could not be used to identify whether the introduction of non-indigenous rats into the UK is associated with Seoul virus. The prevalence of LV was much lower than that previously reported, possibly due to differences in habitat type and the virus‟ maintainability. I identified a lack of potential adaptive variation among LV genomes perhaps indicative of it being a slow evolving virus, a characteristic unlike other RNA viruses. This study has also shown that further surveillance should be conducted in the UK, targeting not only the two viruses described here, but also existing and novel zoonotic pathogens carried by rodents that have yet to be detected.
Supervisor: Begon, Michael; McElhinney, Lorraine; Watts, Phillip C. Sponsor: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QR Microbiology