Hantaviruses, similar to several emerging zoonotic viruses, persistently infect their natural reservoir hosts, without causing overt signs of disease. Spillover to incidental human hosts results in morbidity and mortality mediated by excessive proinflammatory and cellular immune responses. The mechanisms mediating the persistence of hantaviruses and the absence of clinical symptoms in rodent reservoirs are only starting to be uncovered. Recent studies indicate that during hantavirus infection, proinflammatory and antiviral responses are reduced and regulatory responses are elevated at sites of increased virus replication in rodents. The recent discovery of structural and non-structural proteins that suppress type I interferon responses in humans suggests that immune responses in rodent hosts could be mediated directly by the virus. Alternatively, several host factors, including sex steroids, glucocorticoids, and genetic factors, are reported to alter host susceptibility and may contribute to persistence of hantaviruses in rodents. Humans and reservoir hosts differ in infection outcomes and in immune responses to hantavirus infection; thus, understanding the mechanisms mediating viral persistence and the absence of disease in rodents may provide insight into the prevention and treatment of disease in humans. Consideration of the coevolutionary mechanisms mediating hantaviral persistence and rodent host survival is providing insight into the mechanisms by which zoonotic viruses have remained in the environment for millions of years and continue to be transmitted to humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology