DEC 05, 2020 9:38 AM PST

Super-Spreader Events Promoted 2018-2019 Hantavirus Outbreak

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

We've all learned about super-spreader events over the past year, but occasions where a large group of people gathers and many people become infected with a pathogen are not restricted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists have investigated an outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) that happened in 2018 and 2019 in a small Argentinian village and found that extensive contact between people and super-spreader events encouraged it. The findings have been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This micrograph depicts an atypical, enlarged lymphocyte found in the blood smear from a hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) patient. Hematologic findings are important in HPS. / Credit: CDC

Rodents carry hantaviruses, and in South America, they carry a hantavirus called Andes virus, which can be transmitted to people if they are exposed to infected animals or their droppings. Andes virus can also be transmitted from one person to another, the only known hantavirus to do so. It may spread through direct contact with an infected person or their bodily fluids, or simply by being near a person sick with the virus. Infected individuals are at risk for a serious respiratory condition called Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can be fatal. There are no treatments or vaccines at this time.

In this study, researchers analyzed the genetic, clinical, and epidemiological characteristics of the outbreak. It may help prevent or manage similar events in the future.

The study determined that large social events and people with high viral loads propelled the transmission of Andes virus, which caused 34 confirmed cases. The virus had a 32 percent fatality rate. This is the most extensive person-to-person transmission that's been documented for this disease. Aerosolized particles might have been a route of transmission, noted the researchers. It took anywhere from nine to forty days for symptoms to appear, though they also added that the window of infection may be more limited. Transmission seemed to happen on the first day of a patient's fever. The researchers did not find an explanation for why the virus was severe in some but not others.

"This important observation indicates that, regardless of the severity of the disease, all HPS cases should be equally managed concerning their potential for virus transmission," said co-senior study author Gustavo Palacios, Ph.D., Division Chief of Molecular Biology at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). "Furthermore, we need to re-evaluate the threat that this virus poses. The lack of existing medical countermeasures, super-spreading potential, and high case-fatality rate all should raise concern."

Genomic 'signatures' indicated that the virus that caused the 2018-2019 outbreak was strikingly similar to one that caused an outbreak in 1996. This genetic data may help researchers create a vaccine or treatment.

The study also showed evidence of dysfunctional immune regulation in patients. "We hope that by further exploring this apparent immune dysregulation, we will expand our knowledge of how different hantavirus species cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome," said study co-author Mariano Sanchez-Lockhart, Ph.D., of USAMRIID. "Gaining a better understanding of how our immune system tackles Andes virus infection will certainly help clinicians to better manage severe cases and pave the way for new therapeutic interventions."

"We hope this approach serves as a model for future investigations of person-to-person transmission and for the identification of super-spreading events," said study co-author Peter Larson, Ph.D., of USAMRIID.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, New England Journal of Medicine

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2020
Cardiology
Creating a Mouse Model to Test RBM20 Dependent Dilated Cardiomyopathy
NOV 12, 2020
Creating a Mouse Model to Test RBM20 Dependent Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Cardiovascular disease is something that, in most cases, is within our ability to control. A healthy diet and active lif ...
NOV 14, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
New Genetic Test Identifies Cannabis THC Levels from Seeds
NOV 14, 2020
New Genetic Test Identifies Cannabis THC Levels from Seeds
Researchers from the University of Minnesota have developed a genetic test that can predict how much cannabidiol (CBD) o ...
DEC 26, 2020
Microbiology
Mouth Microbes are Diverse & Distributed in a Very Specific Way
DEC 26, 2020
Mouth Microbes are Diverse & Distributed in a Very Specific Way
Like some plants and animals, there are bacteria that prefer to live in certain places; they have strong biogeography. B ...
DEC 30, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Gene Therapy Cures Mice of Deafness
DEC 30, 2020
Gene Therapy Cures Mice of Deafness
Currently, around half a billion people suffer from hearing loss around the world. In about half of these cases, genetic ...
JAN 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Common Brain Disorder Has a Genetic Influence
JAN 01, 2021
Common Brain Disorder Has a Genetic Influence
It's thought that as many as one in one hundred people are born with a brain disorder known as Chiari 1 malformation, bu ...
JAN 15, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Rare Quadruple Helix DNA Found in Live Human Cells
JAN 15, 2021
Rare Quadruple Helix DNA Found in Live Human Cells
Many people picture the classic double-stranded helix when picturing a molecule of DNA, but DNA is also capable of formi ...
Loading Comments...