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Detection of Seoul virus in wild brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) from pig farms in Northern England
  1. Ellen G Murphy, BSc PhD1,2,
  2. Nicola J Williams, BSc PhD1,2,
  3. Malcolm Bennett, BVSc PhD FRCPath MRCVS3,
  4. Daisy Jennings, BSc4,
  5. Julian Chantrey, BVM+S PhD FRCPath DipECZM5 and
  6. Lorraine M McElhinney, BSc MSc PhD1,4
  1. 1HPRU EZI, Institute of Infection and Global Health (IGH), University of Liverpool School of Life Sciences, Neston, Cheshire, UK
  2. 2Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  4. 4Wildlife Zoonoses and Vector-Borne Disease Research Group, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Addlestone, UK
  5. 5Department of Veterinary Pathology, School of Life Sciences, Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; E.G.Murphy{at}


Introduction Hantaviruses are maintained by mammalian hosts, such as rodents, and are shed in their excretions. Clinical disease can occur in humans from spillover infection. Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are the globally distributed reservoir host of Seoul virus (SEOV). Human cases of SEOV-associated haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (SEOV-HFRS)have been reported in Great Britain (GB) since 1977.

Methods Brown rats (n=68) were trapped from a variety of peridomestic locations, with a focus on pig farms. Kidney and lung tissues were tested for viral RNA using a pan-hantavirus RT-PCR assay followed by Sanger sequencing and analysis.

Results SEOV RNA was detected in 19 per cent (13/68, 95% CI 11 to 30) of rats and all sequences fell within SEOV lineage 9. Twelve sequences were highly similar to each other and to the previously reported GB Humber strain of SEOV (98 per cent). One rat SEOV sequence was more distant. The SEOV prevalence in rats from pig farms was significantly greater (p=0.047) than other sites sampled. No significant sex or age differences were observed among positive and negative rats.

Discussion The results from this study suggest that SEOV could be widespread in wild rats in GB and therefore pose a potential risk to public health.

  • disease surveillance
  • epidemiology
  • infectious diseases
  • virology
  • wildlife
  • zoonoses

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  • Contributors Conceived and designed the experiments: EGM, MB, LM, NJW, JC. Collected samples: EGM. Performed the experiments: EGM, DJ. Collated, analysed and interpreted the data: EGM, DJ, LM, MB, NJW. All authors contributed to and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. EGM is based at the University of Liverpool. This work was produced in collaboration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency and was also supported by funding from Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government through grant SV3045 and the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 653316 (EVAg).

  • Disclaimer The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health or Public Health England.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the University of Liverpool Veterinary Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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