Longitudinal studies of Sin Nombre virus in deer mouse-dominated ecosystems of Montana.

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  • 1 Department of Biology, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte 59701, USA.

Sin Nombre virus (SNV), hosted by the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), is the primary etiologic agent of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in North America. To improve our understanding of the epidemiology of HPS in the western United States, we conducted studies of population dynamics and SNV antibody prevalence in deer mouse populations for 6 years on 12 mark-recapture grids in Montana. Monthly numbers of deer mice ranged from zero to over 170 on 1-hectare grids. SNV antibody prevalence was higher than observed in studies in other parts of the United States, averaging 13% (0% to 50%), and peaking in May or June each year. Antibody-positive mice were older (heavier) (78% of positives were adults versus 52% of negatives) and more likely to be males (61% of positives versus 53.4% of negatives). A higher proportion of antibody-positive deer mice of all age-mass classes had scars than did antibody-negative mice. Month-to-month survivorship of antibody-positive adult mice was similar to that of antibody-negative mice, but survival of young antibody-positive deer mice was lower than antibody-negative deer mice. This is the first study to clearly suggest a detrimental effect of SNV infection on deer mice.