Hantaviruses, like other members of the Bunyaviridae
family, are emerging viruses that are able to cause hemorrhagic fevers. Occasional transmission to humans is due to inhalation of contaminated aerosolized excreta from infected rodents. Hantaviruses are asymptomatic in their rodent or insectivore natural hosts with which they have co-evolved for millions of years. In contrast, hantaviruses cause different pathologies in humans with varying mortality rates, depending on the hantavirus species and its geographic origin. Cases of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) have been reported in Europe and Asia, while hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndromes (HCPS) are observed in the Americas. In some cases, diseases caused by Old World hantaviruses exhibit HCPS-like symptoms. Although the etiologic agents of HFRS were identified in the early 1980s, the way hantaviruses interact with their different hosts still remains elusive. What are the entry receptors? How do hantaviruses propagate in the organism and how do they cope with the immune system? This review summarizes recent data documenting interactions established by pathogenic and nonpathogenic hantaviruses with their natural or human hosts that could highlight their different outcomes.
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