Multiple infections of rodents with zoonotic pathogens in Austria.
Rodents are important reservoirs for a large number of zoonotic pathogens. We examined the occurrence of 11 viral, bacterial, and parasitic agents in rodent populations in Austria, including three different hantaviruses, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, orthopox virus, Leptospira spp., Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp., Bartonella spp., Coxiella burnetii, and Toxoplasma gondii. In 2008, 110 rodents of four species (40 Clethrionomys glareolus, 29 Apodemus flavicollis, 26 Apodemus sylvaticus, and 15 Microtus arvalis) were trapped at two rural sites in Lower Austria. Chest cavity fluid and samples of lung, spleen, kidney, liver, brain, and ear pinna skin were collected. We screened selected tissue samples for hantaviruses, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, orthopox viruses, Leptospira, Borrelia, Rickettsia, Bartonella spp., C. burnetii, and T. gondii by RT-PCR/PCR and detected nucleic acids of Tula hantavirus, Leptospira spp., Borrelia afzelii, Rickettsia spp., and different Bartonella species. Serological investigations were performed for hantaviruses, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, orthopox viruses, and Rickettsia spp. Here, Dobrava-Belgrade hantavirus-, Tula hantavirus-, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus-, orthopox virus-, and rickettsia-specific antibodies were demonstrated. Puumala hantavirus, C. burnetii, and T. gondii were neither detected by RT-PCR/PCR nor by serological methods. In addition, multiple infections with up to three pathogens were shown in nine animals of three rodent species from different trapping sites. In conclusion, these results show that rodents in Austria may host multiple zoonotic pathogens. Our observation raises important questions regarding the interactions of different pathogens in the host, the countermeasures of the host's immune system, the impact of the host-pathogen interaction on the fitness of the host, and the spread of infectious agents among wild rodents and from those to other animals or humans.