Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Evidence of hantavirus in wild rodents in Northern Ireland

C. McCaugheya1*, W. I. Montgomerya2, N. Twomeya2, M. Addleya2, H. J. O'Neilla1 and P. V. Coylea1

a1 Regional Virus Laboratory, Royal Hospitals Trust, Grosvenor Road. Belfast BT12 6BN, UK

a2 School of Biology and Biochemistry, Medical Biology Centre, The Queen's University of Belfast. Belfast BT9 7BL, UK


A survey of evidence of rodent hantavirus infection in County Down, Northern Ireland was carried out by using immunofluorescence to detect virus antigen and antibody. Antibodies to hantavirus (R22 strain of Seoul virus and Hantaan 76–118) were found in 11/51 (21·6%) brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), 1/31 (3·2%) field mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and 17/59 (28·8%) house mice (Mus domesticus). Seven rodents had evidence of hantavirus antigen in lung tissues. Antibody positive animals were significantly more likely to be adults than juveniles (P = 0·04) but and there was no sex difference between antibody positive and negative animals. House mice were more likely to be antibody positive if captured inside farm outbuildings (P = 0·08). Attempts to culture virus from the rodent material were unsuccessful. This work demonstrates a substantial rodent reservoir for hantavirus in Northern Ireland.

(Accepted May 17 1996)


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