Effect of Persistent Infection with Junin Virus on Growth and Reproduction of its Natural Reservoir, Calomys musculinus

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  • Departamento de Microbiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Paraguay 2155, piso 11, 1121 Buenos Aires, Argentina

The effect of infection with Junin virus on growth and reproduction of its natural reservoir, Calomys musculinus, was studied. Eighty-five C. musculinus were inoculated intranasally at birth with 100 TCID50 of Cba An 9446 strain of Junin virus and observed for 480 days. No clinical signs of neurologic illness were registered. Infected animals showed an increased mortality rate of up to 70% between days 24–40 post-infection. This period of high mortality was preceded by low weight gain during lactation and registered until 60 days. From day 14 post-infection until day 480, Junin virus was recovered from blood, urine, and oral swab in all animals checked at any time. By day 480 post-infection, 100% of survivors showed widespread viral dissemination in brain, spleen, kidneys, and salivary glands. There was marked reduction in reproductive efficiency among infected animals. Out of 15 mating pairs, 2 (13.3%) littered at least once compared to 60% in the control group. The reduction of fertility and the altered survival rate of Junin virus-infected C. musculinus indicate that vertical transmission mechanisms per se are insufficient to maintain the infection in successive generations in the absence of horizontal transmission.