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Urban Rodent Surveillance, Climatic Association, and Genomic Characterization of Seoul Virus Collected at U.S. Army Garrison, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 2006–2010

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  • 1 Medical Command Activity-Korea, 65th Medical Brigade, Unit 15281, APO AP 96271-5281;
  • | 2 Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea;
  • | 3 5th R&D Institute, Agency for Defense Development, Daejeon, Republic of Korea
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Rodent-borne pathogens pose a critical public health threat in urban areas. An epidemiological survey of urban rodents was conducted from 2006 to 2010 at the U.S. Army Garrison (USAG), Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK), to determine the prevalence of Seoul virus (SEOV), a rodent-borne hantavirus. A total of 1,950 rodents were captured at USAG, Yongsan, near/in 19.4% (234/1,206) of the numbered buildings. Annual mean rodent infestation rates were the highest for food service facilities, e.g., the Dragon Hill Lodge complex (38.0 rodents) and the Hartell House (18.8 rodents). The brown rat, Rattus norvegicus, accounted for 99.4% (1,939/1,950) of all the rodents captured in the urban area, whereas only 0.6% (11/1,950) of the rodents was house mice (Mus musculus). In November 2006, higher numbers of rats captured were likely associated with climatic factors, e.g., rainfall and temperatures as rats sought harborage in and around buildings. Only 4.7% (34/718) of the rodents assayed for hantaviruses was serologically positive for SEOV. A total of 8.8% (3/34) R. norvegicus were positive for SEOV RNA by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, of which two SEOV strains were completely sequenced and characterized. The 3′ and 5′ terminal sequences revealed incomplete complementary genomic configuration. Seoul virus strains Rn10-134 and Rn10-145 formed a monophyletic lineage with the prototype SEOV strain 80-39. Seoul virus Medium segment showed the highest evolutionary rates compared with the Large and Small segments. In conclusion, this report provides significant insights into continued rodent-borne disease surveillance programs that identify hantaviruses for analysis of disease risk assessments and development of mitigation strategies.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Jin-Won Song, Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Korea University, 3 Incheon-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 02841, Republic of Korea. E-mail: jwsong@korea.ac.kr

Financial support: Funding for portions of this work was provided by the AFHSB-GEIS and a grant from the ADD (UD160022ID). This research was also supported by Research Program To Solve Social Issues of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2017M3A9E4061992).

Ethical approval: All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Authors’ addresses: Heung-Chul Kim, Sung-Tae Chong, and Terry A. Klein, Medical Command Activity-Korea, 65th Medical Brigade, Unit 15281, E-mails: hungchol.kim2.ln@mail.mil, sungtae.chong.ln@mail.mil, and terry.a.klein2.civ@mail.mil. Won-Keun Kim, Jin Sun No, Seung-Ho Lee, and Jin-Won Song, Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, E-mails: wkkim1061@korea.ac.kr, dybono@korea.ac.kr, leeds1104@korea.ac.kr, and jwsong@korea.ac.kr. Se Hun Gu, 5th R&D Institute, Agency for Defense Development, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, E-mails: sehungu@add.re.kr.

These authors contributed equally to this study.

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