Novel Arenavirus Infection in Humans, United States

Mary Louise Milazzo; Grant L. Campbell; Charles F. Fulhorst


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2011;17(8):1417-1420. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Immunoglobulin G against Whitewater Arroyo virus or lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus was found in 41 (3.5%) of 1,185 persons in the United States who had acute central nervous system disease or undifferentiated febrile illnesses. The results of analyses of antibody titers in paired serum samples suggest that a North American Tacaribe serocomplex virus was the causative agent of the illnesses in 2 persons and that lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus was the causative agent of the illnesses in 3 other antibody-positive persons in this study. The results of this study suggest that Tacaribe serocomplex viruses native to North America, as well as lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, are causative agents of human disease in the United States.


The arenaviruses (family Arenaviridae, genus Arenavirus) known to occur in North America include Whitewater Arroyo virus (WWAV), 7 other members of the Tacaribe serocomplex (Table 1), and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV, the prototypic member of the lymphocytic choriomeningitis–Lassa serocomplex). Specific members of the order Rodentia are the principal hosts of the arenaviruses, for which natural host relationships have been well characterized. For example, the hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) in Florida is the principal host of Tamiami virus,[6,7] and the ubiquitous house mouse (Mus musculus) is the principal host of LCMV.[9]

Five South American members of the Tacaribe serocomplex, LCMV, and Lassa virus are etiologic agents of severe febrile illnesses in humans.[10,11] The human health significance of the North American Tacaribe serocomplex viruses has not been rigorously investigated.[12]

Studies since the mid-1990s have shown that Tacaribe serocomplex viruses are widely distributed in the United States and Mexico and that woodrats (Neotoma spp.) and other members of the family Cricetidae are natural hosts of these viruses.[1–5,8,13,14] The purpose of this study was to investigate whether humans have been infected with North American Tacaribe serocomplex viruses.


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