Seoul virus (SEOV) is a zoonotic orthohantavirus carried by black and brown rats, and can cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in humans. Human cases of SEOV virus infection have most recently been reported in the USA, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands and were primarily associated with contact with pet rats and feeder rats. Infection of rats results in an asymptomatic but persistent infection. Little is known about the cell tropism of SEOV in its reservoir and most available data is based on experimental infection studies in which rats were inoculated via a route which does not recapitulate virus transmission in nature. Here we report the histopathological analysis of SEOV cell tropism in key target organs following natural infection of a cohort of feeder rats, comprising 19 adults and 11 juveniles. All adult rats in this study were positive for SEOV specific antibodies and viral RNA in their tissues. One juvenile rat was seropositive, but negative in the rRT-PCR. Of the 19 adult rats of which subsequently additional organs were tested, SEOV RNA was detected in all lungs, followed by kidney (79%) and liver (74%). Histopathologic changes associated with SEOV infection were primarily found in the liver, consistent with a pathological diagnosis of a mild hepatitis. In conclusion, natural SEOV infection results in mild inflammation of the liver in the absence of clinical disease.
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