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Shared Ancestry Between a Newfound Mole-Borne Hantavirus and Hantaviruses Harbored by Cricetid Rodents

01 June 2011

Dr. Richard Yanagihara and his postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Hyeyun Kang, have discovered a genetically distinct hantavirus, designated Rockport virus (RKPV), in archival tissues of the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus). Apart from the fact that RKPV represents the first example of a hantavirus harbored by a New World mole in the Subfamily Scalopinae, the phylogenetic analyses further expand conventional thinking about the complex evolutionary history of hantaviruses. The emerging conceptual framework indicates multiple, independent host-switching events through deep evolutionary time, or across deep divergences, followed by local host-specific adaptation and establishment of parallel enzootic cycles. Moreover, the collective data suggest that ancestral soricomorphs may have served as the early hosts of primordial hantaviruses.