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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Serological Evidence of Multiple Zoonotic Viral Infections among Wild Rodents in Barbados

Douglas, Kirk Osmond; Cayol, Claire; Forbes, Kristian Michael; Samuels, Thelma Alafia; Vapalahti, Olli; Sironen, Tarja; Gittens-St Hilaire, Marquita


Background: Rodents are reservoirs for several zoonotic pathogens that can cause human infectious diseases, including orthohantaviruses, mammarenaviruses and orthopoxviruses. Evidence exists for these viruses circulating among rodents and causing human infections in the Americas, but much less evidence exists for their presence in wild rodents in the Caribbean. Methods: Here, we conducted serological and molecular investigations of wild rodents in Barbados to determine the prevalence of orthohantavirus, mammarenavirus and orthopoxvirus infections, and the possible role of these rodent species as reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens. Using immunofluorescent assays (IFA), rodent sera were screened for the presence of antibodies to orthohantavirus, mammarenavirus (Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus-LCMV) and orthopoxvirus (Cowpox virus-CPXV) infections. RT-PCR was then conducted on orthohantavirus and mammarenavirus-seropositive rodent sera and tissues, to detect the presence of viral RNA. Results: We identified antibodies against orthohantavirus, mammarenavirus, and orthopoxvirus among wild mice and rats (3.8%, 2.5% and 7.5% seropositivity rates respectively) in Barbados. No orthohantavirus or mammarenavirus viral RNA was detected from seropositive rodent sera or tissues using RT-PCR. Conclusions: Key findings of this study are the first serological evidence of orthohantavirus infections in Mus musculus and the first serological evidence of mammarenavirus and orthopoxvirus infections in Rattus norvegicus and M. musculus in the English-speaking Caribbean. Rodents may present a potential zoonotic and biosecurity risk for transmission of three human pathogens, namely orthohantaviruses, mammarenaviruses and orthopoxviruses in Barbados.


orthohantavirus; infectious disease; Caribbean; zoonosis; biosecurity

Published in

2021, volume: 10, number: 6, article number: 663
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Douglas, Kirk Osmond
University of the West Indies
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Forbes, Kristian Michael
University of Arkansas Fayetteville
Samuels, Thelma Alafia
University of the West Indies
Vapalahti, Olli
University of Helsinki
Sironen, Tarja
University of Helsinki
Gittens-St. Hilaire, Marquita
University of the West Indies

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