Prevalence of Infection with Junin Virus in Rodent Populations in the Epidemic Area of Argentine Hemorrhagic Fever

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  • U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Virales Humanas, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland, Argentina
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We report the results of indirect fluorescent antibody screening for antibody to Junin virus in 1,101 sera from small mammals captured on two mark-recapture grids in the epidemic area of Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Twenty-six of 29 seropositive animals were the cricetid rodent Calomys musculinus, for a 30-month prevalence of 7.9% in that species. Combining these data with previously published data on antigen detection provided an estimated total prevalence of infection of 10.9% for this, the principal reservoir species. Other infected species included two cricetids, C. laucha and Bolomys obscurus, and a predatory carnivore, Galictis cuja. Approximately half of infected animals simultaneously carried serum antibody and antigen in blood and saliva, some for 29–61 days. Except for C. laucha, which was associated with crop habitats, seropositive animals were strongly associated with the relatively rare roadside and fence-line habitats. Seropositive C. musculinus were predominantly males in the oldest age and heaviest body mass classes, and seropositive males were twice as likely to have body scars as seronegative males. These observations suggest that most infections were acquired through horizontal transmission and that aggressive encounters among adult, male C. musculinus in relatively densely populated roadside and fence-line habitats are an important mechanism of transmission of Junin virus within reservoir populations.