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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Evidence of orthohantavirus and leptospira infections in small mammals in an endemic area of Gampaha district in Sri Lanka

Sunil-Chandra, N. P.; Fahlman, Asa; Waidyarathna, Shantha; Naslund, Jonas; Jayasundara, M. V. M. L.; Wesula, Lwande Olivia; Bucht, Goran


Background: Orthohantaviruses and leptospira are emerging zoonotic pathogens of high public health significance. The epidemiology of orthohantavirus infections and leptospirosis is similar and presents related clinical pictures in humans. However, a paucity of data on actual reservoir hosts for orthohantaviruses and leptospira exists. Therefore, this study aimed at determining the occurrence of orthohantaviruses and leptospira in small mammals captured in an endemic region of Sri Lanka. Methods: Rodents and shrews were morphologically and/or genetically identified using morphological keys and DNA barcoding techniques targeting the cytochrome oxidase b subunit gene (Cytb). Lung tissues and sera were subsequently analyzed for the presence of orthohantavirus RNA using qRT-PCR. Sera of rats were tested for IgG antibodies against orthohantaviruses and leptospira. Results: Forty-three (43) small mammals representing: Rattus (R.) rattus (black rat) or R. tanezumi (Asian rat), Suncus murinus (Asian house shrew), R. norvegicus (brown rat) and Mus musculus (house mouse) were investigated. No orthohantavirus RNA was detected from the lung tissue or serum samples of these animals. Elevated levels of IgG antibodies against Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) and/or Seoul orthohantavirus (SEOV) antigens were detected in sera of 28 (72%) out of the 39 rats analysed. Interestingly, 36 (92%) of the 39 rats also showed presence of anti leptospira-IgG antibodies in their serum, representing dual infection or dual exposure in 26/39 (66.7%) of examined rats. Conclusions: This project targets important public health questions concerning the occupational risk of orthohantavirus infections and/or leptospirosis in an endemic region of Sri Lanka. Most rats (72%) in our study displayed antibodies reacting to orthohantavirus NP antigens, related to PUUV and/or SEOV. No correlation between the orthohantavirus and leptospira IgG antibody levels were noticed. Finally, a combination of both morphological and DNA barcoding approaches revealed that several species of rats may play a role in the maintenance and transmission of orthohantavirus and leptospira in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka; Orthohantavirus; Leptospira; Rodents; Shrews

Published in

One Health Outlook
2022, Volume: 4, number: 1, article number: 17
Publisher: BMC

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Swedish Biodiversity Centre

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Microbiology in the medical area
    Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

    Publication identifier


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