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      At Home with Mastomys and Rattus: Human-Rodent Interactions and Potential for Primary Transmission of Lassa Virus in Domestic Spaces


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          The multimammate mouse ( Mastomys natalensis) is the reservoir for Lassa virus (LASV). Zoonotic transmission occurs when humans are directly or indirectly exposed to fluids of the multimammate mouse, such as urine, saliva, and blood. Housing characteristics and domestic organization affect rodent density in and around households and villages, and are likely to be a risk factor for Lassa fever in humans where the reservoir exists. We use semi-structured interviews ( N = 51), a quantitative survey ( N = 429), direct observations, and a rodent ecology study to provide new insights into how the organization of domestic spaces brings together humans and rodents and creates pathways for infection in rural settlements in Bo District, Sierra Leone. Rodents were frequently reported inside houses (92.4% of respondents), in which we predominantly trapped M. natalensis (57% of trapped rodents) and Rattus rattus (38% of trapped rodents). Building design and materials provide hiding and nesting places for rodents and lead to close proximity with humans. Patterns of contact are both unintentional and intentional and research participants reported high levels of contact with rodents (34.2% of respondents) and rodent fluids (52.8% of respondents). Rodents are also perceived as a serious threat to food security. These results present detailed knowledge about how humans live with and come into contact with rodents, including the LASV reservoir. Our results argue for further collaborative research in housing and environmental modification such as ceiling construction, food storage, and sanitation as prevention against zoonotic LASV transmission.

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          Mastomys natalensis and Lassa Fever, West Africa

          PCR screening of 1,482 murid rodents from 13 genera caught in 18 different localities of Guinea, West Africa, showed Lassa virus infection only in molecularly typed Mastomys natalensis. Distribution of this rodent and relative abundance compared with M. erythroleucus correlates geographically with Lassa virus seroprevalence in humans.
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            Lassa fever.

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              Lassa virus.

              Lassa virus is a RNA virus belonging to the family of Arenaviridae. It was discovered as the causative agent of a hemorrhagic fever--Lassa fever--about 30 years ago. Lassa fever is endemic in West Africa and is estimated to affect some 100,000 people annually. Great progress in the understanding of the life cycle of arenaviruses, including Lassa virus, has been made in recent years. New insights have been gained in the pathogenesis and molecular epidemiology of Lassa fever, and state-of the-art technologies for diagnosing this life-threatening disease have been developed. The intention of this review is to summarize in particular the recent literature on Lassa virus and Lassa fever. Several aspects ranging from basic research up to clinical practice and laboratory diagnosis are discussed and linked together.

                Author and article information

                Am J Trop Med Hyg
                Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg
                The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
                The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
                05 April 2017
                05 April 2017
                : 96
                : 4
                : 935-943
                [1 ]Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom
                [2 ]Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
                [3 ]Mercy Hospital Research Laboratory, Bo, Sierra Leone
                [4 ]Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of Sierra Leone, Freetown, Sierra Leone
                [5 ]Department of Virology, Bernhard-Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany
                Author notes
                *Address correspondence to Jesse Bonwitt, Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Dawson Building, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom. E-mail: jesse.bonwitt@ 123456durham.ac.uk
                ©The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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