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At home with Mastomys and Rattus : human-rodent interactions and potential for primary transmission of Lassa virus in domestic spaces.

Bonwitt, J. and Sáez, A.M. and Lamin, J. and Ansumana, R. and Dawson, M. and Buanie, J. and Lamin, J. and Sondufu, D. and Borchert, M. and Sahr, F. and Fichet-Calvet, E. and Brown, H. (2017) 'At home with Mastomys and Rattus : human-rodent interactions and potential for primary transmission of Lassa virus in domestic spaces.', American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene., 96 (4). pp. 935-943.


The multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) is the reservoir for Lassa virus (LASV). Zoonotic transmission occurs when humans are directly or indirectly exposed to fluids of the multimammate mouse, such as urine, saliva, and blood. Housing characteristics and domestic organization affect rodent density in and around households and villages, and are likely to be a risk factor for Lassa fever (LF) in humans where the reservoir exists. We use semi-structured interviews (n=51), a quantitative survey (n=429), direct observations and a rodent ecology study to provide new insights into how the organization of domestic spaces brings together humans and rodents and creates pathways for infection in rural settlements in Bo District, Sierra Leone. Rodents were frequently reported inside houses (92.4% of respondents), in which we predominantly trapped M. natalensis (57% of trapped rodents) and Rattus rattus (38% of trapped rodents). Building design and materials provide hiding and nesting places for rodents and lead to close proximity with humans. Patterns of contact are both unintentional and intentional and research participants reported high levels of contact with rodents (34.2% of respondents) and rodent fluids (52.8% of respondents). Rodents are also perceived as a serious threat to food security. These results present detailed knowledge about how humans live with and come into contact with rodents, including the LASV reservoir. Our results argue for further collaborative research in housing and environmental modification such as ceiling construction, food storage and sanitation as prevention against zoonotic LASV transmission.

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Publisher statement:© The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:12 December 2016
Date deposited:05 January 2017
Date of first online publication:06 February 2017
Date first made open access:No date available

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