Wildlife and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases: The Biology, Circumstances and Consequences of Cross-Species Transmission

Volume 315 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 253-288


  • J. P. GonzalezAffiliated withFundamentals and Domains of Disease Emergence Research Unit, Institute for Research Development, IRD
  • , S. EmonetAffiliated withConditions et Territoires d'Emergence des Maladies
  • , X. de LamballerieAffiliated withUnité des Virus Emergents, Université de la Méditerranée
  • , R. CharrelAffiliated withUnité des Virus Emergents, Université de la Méditerranée

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The Arenaviridae family contains 22 recognized virus species, each of them strongly associated with a rodent species (except Tacaribe virus which is associated with a species of bat), suggesting an ancient co-evolutionary process. Although the concept of co-evolution between rodents and arenaviruses is now largely accepted, little has been uncovered in terms of dating the phenomenon and the mechanisms of evolution, including speciation and pathogenicity. These questions are targeted in the present chapter. Old World arenaviruses are associated with the Eurasian rodents in the family Muridae. New World arenaviruses are associated with American rodents in the subfamily Sigmodontinae. The correlation between the rodent host phylogeny and the viruses suggests a long association and a co-evolutionary process. Furthermore, three distinct New World arenaviruses share a common ancestor, demonstrating a unique recombination event that probably occurred in that ancestor. This shows that recombination among arenaviruses of different lineages might occur in nature. Recombination and co-evolutionary adaptation appear as the main mechanisms of arenavirus evolution, generating a high degree of diversity. The diversity among rodent host reservoir and virus species and the potential to exchange genomic material provide a basis for the emergence of new viruses and the risk of these becoming pathogenic for humans.