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Screening of Swedish brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) for Leptospira, hantavirus and influenza
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology. (Zoonosis Science Centre (Åke))
2017 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 30 credits / 45 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Abstract

Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are known carriers of several pathogenic organisms including Leptospira and Seoul hantavirus. They are believed to be found in almost every human settlement and can present themselves as a potential zoonotic health risk to the general public. Prevalence rates of Leptospira, hantavirus and influenza is not yet currently well-established within the wild brown rat population of Sweden. In this study, brown rats that were exterminated by a 3rd party company were collected and donated to us from several rural and urban locations of Southern Sweden. This sample pool was then screened for Leptospira (6.1%), hantavirus (0%) and influenza (0%) via qPCR and nested PCR. Positive results were later confirmed via sequencing. All positive Leptospira samples were identified exclusively from urban rats, specifically rats originating from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The study also identified the feasibility of using exterminated brown rats as a potential sample source for the regular screening of Leptospira for surveillance purposes.

Abstract [en]

Popular scientific summary

Brown rats are rodents that can be found in almost every part of the world and commonly reside in the majority of human settlements. As they inhabit the same spaces that we do, they can pose a potential health risk since brown rats are known carriers for a range of zoonotic pathogens including Leptospira, Coxiella, Rickettsia, Toxoplasma and Seoul hantavirus. Our current understanding of the prevalence rates of these pathogens in wild brown rats is not yet fully complete, with previous studies reporting a large inconsistent range. Therefore, in this study we have endeavoured to screen brown rats collected from multiple urban and rural locations in Southern Sweden for three specific pathogens; Leptospira, hantavirus and influenza. Leptospira is known to cause fever in most human cases and is believed to be under-reported. Furthermore, it can potentially cause severe Weil’s disease, characterised by renal failure and haemorrhaging. Seoul hantavirus is also known to cause similar serious disease in some human cases, specifically causing haemorrhagic fevers and renal failure. These diseases highlight the danger that wild brown rats can pose and the need to understand the occurrence of the causing pathogenic agents within their population. In this study, we found the prevalence of Leptospira to be low (6.1%) within our sample pool. All of our Leptospira positive rat samples were discovered to be from three major Swedish cities consisting of; Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Additionally, our analysis revealed that there was no positive hantavirus or influenza-infected rats within our sample pool. The results give us a better understanding of the prevalence rate for these three pathogens in the wild brown rat population within Southern Sweden, however, more studies will need to be conducted to confirm that these prevalence rates are accurate across the whole country. Our samples were unique in that they were originally captured by a 3rd party extermination company to be exterminated and were later donated to us to be used for screening. This is important as consequentially our study demonstrates the feasibility of using exterminated rats as a source of samples instead of having to live capture them, as in other traditional studies of this kind. The use of exterminated rats is more cost-effective than current live capture methods and is also less time consuming for the researcher, potentially allowing government agencies and research organisations an alternative and cheaper method for establishing a surveillance system for the detection of Leptospira in wild brown rats for the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. , 24 p.
Keyword [en]
Leptospira, brown rats, hantavirus, influenza, rattus norvegicus, carcass, carcasses, Sweden, qPCR, nested PCR
National Category
Biological Sciences Microbiology Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Bioinformatics and Systems Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-328476OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-328476DiVA: diva2:1135666
Educational program
Master Programme in Infection Biology
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2017-11-02 Created: 2017-08-23 Last updated: 2017-11-02Bibliographically approved

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