Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Association of intraspecific wounding with hantaviral infection in wild rats (Rattus norvegicus)

G. E. Glassa1, J. E. Childsa1, G. W. Korcha1 and J. W. LeDuca2

a1 Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 615 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21205

a2 Department of Epidemiology, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Frederick, MD 21701


The potential for hantaviral transmission among wild Norway rats by wounding associated with aggressive interactions was evaluated using a prospective sero-epidemiological study coupled with a mark-release-recapture survey. There was a significant association between an animal's serological status and the presence of wounds. Longitudinal studies of marked and released animals showed sero-conversion between captures was associated with wounding between captures more often (33%) than expected by chance, while unwounded animals seroconverted less often (8%) than expected. Typically, less than a 5% difference was found when comparing the incidence of seroconversion with the predicted rate based on wounding and seroprevalence. Infection was highly associated with the onset of sexual maturity and aggression but decoupled from rat age and the length of environmental exposure. Seroconversions occurred at times most associated with aggressive encounters and least associated with amicable behaviours that could lead to aerosol transmission.

(Accepted April 26 1988)