Pet Rodents and Fatal Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis in Transplant Patients
Three organ transplant recipients died from infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), which was traced back to a hamster owned by the daughter of the organ donor. Dr. Brian Amman, a mammalogist with the Special Pathogens Branch at CDC, discusses the dangers LCMV may pose to people with immune disorders, as well as to pregnant women. Created: 5/16/2007 by CDC, Office of the Director.
Date Released: 5/16/2007. Series Name: Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Pet Rodents and Fatal Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis in
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[Dan Rutz] I’m Dan Rutz, speaking today with Dr. Brian Amman, a mammalogist with
the Special Pathogens Branch here at CDC. Dr. Amman co-authored an article in the
May 2007 issue of EID on the subject of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, or LCMV,
contracted by recipients of organ donations. Brian, give us a description, please, of
[Brian Amman] LCMV is a rodentborne arenavirus that’s endemic in the common house
mouse. It rarely poses a threat to healthy people, but in immunocompromised people or
pregnant women, it can cause serious infections or death. LCMV infection during
pregnancy can result in severe birth defects or even spontaneous abortion. Persons are
usually infected by direct contact with the secretions or excretions of infected rodents.
[Dan Rutz] So this can be a serious matter. In the case your article describes, four
recipients of organ transplants from a single donor developed LCMV, and three of them
died. The virus was traced back to an infected pet hamster owned by the daughter of
the organ donor. How common a problem in pet rodents is LCMV?
[Brian Amman] LCMV isn’t very common in pet rodents at all. The primary reservoir for
LCMV is the house mouse. This house mouse is so widespread that elimination of the
mouse and the virus is impractical. Contact between wild mice and pet rodents is the
most likely cause of transmission to pet rodent populations. In this case, the virus was
traced back to a distribution facility in Ohio. The index hamster was housed in this
facility briefly before being shipped to a retail pet store in Rhode Island and
subsequently purchased by the organ donor’s family. We know the virus came from
Ohio because nucleotide sequences from the transplant patients, the index hamster,
and other hamsters collected in Ohio were almost identical. It is extremely unlikely that
two different virus genotypes from such distant localities would be that similar.
[Dan Rutz] Brian, let me ask you about testing for LCMV. How routine is it, or is it at all?
[Brian Amman] Laboratory colonies are routinely tested for LCMV because it poses a
hazard to laboratory employees and can have negative effects on experiments as well
as rodent colony health. Mice suffer few outward consequences when infected,
because they are the natural reservoir, but hamsters can experience everything from no
symptoms to severe illness and death. More important, hamsters and mice can
become chronically infected and shed the virus for many months, continually exposing
uninfected individuals to the virus.
[Dan Rutz] What should our listeners do to help prevent transmission of this infection?
[Brian Amman] LCMV poses the greatest threat to pregnant women and people with
immune system problems, so they should avoid contact with the rodents altogether,
including pets, and should stay away from rodent-infested areas. Efforts should be
made to keep house mice out of homes and businesses to reduce the potential for
contact. Also, pet owners should be educated about potential for disease transmission
in any pet, including pet rodents, so they can take precautions as necessary. Additional
information about LCMV is available on the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov.
[Dan Rutz] Brian, we thank you very much for your comments and appreciate your
important perspective on these findings.
Our discussion with Dr. Amman was prompted by an article on lymphocytic
choriomeningitis virus in pet rodents in the May 2007 issue of Emerging Infectious
Diseases. This article, and others on emerging bacterial and viral diseases, is online at
www.cdc.gov/eid. You can submit your comments on this interview to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Eideditor, one word, at cdc.gov.
For Emerging Infectious Diseases, I’m Dan Rutz.
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