In natural populations of rodents, males are more likely to engage in aggression and be infected with hantaviruses than females. Whether the relationship between hantavirus infection and aggression is due to host- or parasite-mediated mechanisms is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether hantavirus infection causes an increase in aggression in male rats and whether these behavioural changes are due to infection of the central nervous system or peripheral tissues. Male laboratory rats were infected with Seoul virus and tested for aggression in a resident-intruder paradigm 15 and 30 days postinoculation (p.i.). Males tested 30 days p.i. (i.e. during the persistent phase of infection) spent more time engaged in aggression than either uninfected males or males tested during the acute phase of infection (i.e. 15 days p.i.). Males that engaged in aggression for a longer duration had more virus present in lung, kidney and testis than males that spent less time engaged in aggression. Infected males shed virus in saliva, faeces, and urine; virus shedding, however, was not correlated with aggression and neither wounding nor transmission of virus to intruder males occurred during behavioural tests. Infection with Seoul virus did not alter either testosterone or corticosterone concentrations. Seoul virus antigens were not detected in the brains of infected rats. These data suggest that hantavirus infection leads to elevated aggression in infected males and may be a by-product of increased virus replication in peripheral tissues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology