Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Serological evidence for the reservoir hosts of cowpox virus in British wildlife

A. C. Croucha1a2a3, D. Baxbya1 c1, C. M. McCrackena2a3, R. M. Gaskella2 and M. Bennetta3

a1 Departments of Medical Microbiology, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK

a2 Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK

a3 Veterinary Clinical Science and Animal Husbandry, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK

Summary

The reservoir host of cowpox virus in Western Europe is not known, but epidemiological evidence from human and feline infections indicates that the virus is probably endemic in small wild rodents. Therefore, serum and tissue samples were collected from a variety of wild British mammals and some birds, and tested for evidence of Orthopoxvirus infection. Antibody reacting with cowpox virus was detected in 9/44 (20%) bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus), 8/24 (33%) field voles (Microtus agrestis), 17/86 (20%) wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and 1/44 house mice (Mus musculus), but in no other animal species tested. Although virus was not isolated from any animal, this serological survey, together with other evidence, suggests that bank and field voles and wood mice are the main reservoir hosts of cowpox virus in Great Britain.

(Accepted March 15 1995)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence.

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