Rediscovery and New Beginnings20 January 2014
The history of hantaviruses has been marked by rediscovery and new beginnings. In an invited review, the host range, genetic diversity and geographic distribution of hantaviruses harbored by non-rodent small mammals are summarized to gain insights into their evolutionary origins and phylogeography. Opportunistic studies were made possible largely through the generosity of museum curators and field mammalogists, who willingly granted access to their archival tissue collections. A new era in hantavirology is now focused on exploring the inconvenient evidence that rodents may not be the original mammalian hosts of primordial hantaviruses. Also, the once-growing complacency and indifference toward rodent-borne hantaviruses is being replaced by renewed zeal to fill major gaps in our understanding about the ecology, transmission dynamics and pathogenic potential of these newly discovered, still-orphan hantaviruses, before the next new disease outbreak occurs.