Puumala hantavirus infection alters the odour attractiveness of its reservoir host
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Oecologia. - Berlin
, p. 955-963
University of Antwerp
The random-mixing assumptions of many parasite-transmission models are challenged if healthy individuals can alter their behaviour to reduce their risk of infection. Some pathogens reduce the attractiveness of their hosts excretions, for example, potentially altering contact rates and thus the predicted force of infection for pathogens transmissible by contact with excretions. For bank voles (Myodes glareolus), contact with contaminated urine is an important route of transmission for Puumala hantavirus (PUUV); however, it is not known whether PUUV infection changes the voles urinary odours or their attractiveness. Here, we use a Y-maze to test whether PUUV infection alters the attractiveness of male bank voles urine. We presented wild-caught PUUV-free male and female bank voles with PUUV-infected conspecific urine, uninfected urine and a water control, and measured the relative and absolute latency to first visit, number of visits, and total time bank voles spent investigating each treatment over 30 min. PUUV infection significantly altered the bank voles initial response to conspecific urine, with fewer visits and less time spent close to infected urine relative to uninfected urine, and less total time spent near the infected urine than the uninfected urine or control. These strong preferences weakened over the 30-min trial, however, partly due to a general decline in male activity, and there were no absolute differences between the treatments overall. This suggests that PUUV infection does change the attractiveness of bank vole urine to conspecifics, and we discuss the implications of these results for random-mixing assumptions.