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Identification of Aichivirus in a Pet Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in Italy

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, 80055 Portici, Italy
Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy
Istituto di Gestione della Fauna, 80126 Napoli, Italy
Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, 80122 Napoli, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2024, 14(12), 1765;
Submission received: 29 February 2024 / Revised: 6 June 2024 / Accepted: 7 June 2024 / Published: 11 June 2024
(This article belongs to the Special Issue General Epidemiology of Animal Viruses)

Simple Summary

Dozens of species of small exotic mammals, such as chinchillas, golden hamsters, Java squirrels, Mongolian gerbils, mice, rats, African hedgehogs, and sugar gliders, are kept as pets globally. These exotic companion mammals are potential reservoirs for maintaining and transmitting zoonotic pathogens. Using molecular assays, our study aimed to investigate the occurrence of some potential zoonotic viruses in various small exotic mammals kept as pets in Italy. Our findings show that aichivirus (AiV) was further characterized as murine kobuvirus-1 in a rat (Rattus norvegicus). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study reporting the detection of AiV in rodents in Italy. Our results also revealed the absence of other viruses investigated while highlighting the importance of ongoing monitoring of infectious agents in these increasingly common pets to prevent the spread of new potential zoonotic pathogens.


We investigated the occurrence of eight potential zoonotic viruses in 91 exotic companion mammals from pet shops in southern Italy via real-time PCR and end-point PCR. The animals were screened for aichivirus, sapovirus, astrovirus, hepatitis A, noroviruses (GI and GII), rotavirus, circovirus, and SARS-CoV-2. Among the nine species of exotic pets studied, only one rat tested positive for aichivirus. The high sequence similarity to a murine kobuvirus-1 strain previously identified in China suggests that the virus may have been introduced into Italy through the importation of animals from Asia. Since exotic companion mammals live in close contact with humans, continuous sanitary monitoring is crucial to prevent the spread of new pathogens among domestic animals and humans. Further investigations on detecting and typing zoonotic viruses are needed to identify emerging and re-emerging viruses to safeguard public health.
Keywords: Aichivirus; Rattus norvegicus; exotic pets; kobuvirus Aichivirus; Rattus norvegicus; exotic pets; kobuvirus

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MDPI and ACS Style

Alfano, F.; Lucibelli, M.G.; Serra, F.; Levante, M.; Rea, S.; Gallo, A.; Petrucci, F.; Pucciarelli, A.; Picazio, G.; Monini, M.; et al. Identification of Aichivirus in a Pet Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in Italy. Animals 2024, 14, 1765.

AMA Style

Alfano F, Lucibelli MG, Serra F, Levante M, Rea S, Gallo A, Petrucci F, Pucciarelli A, Picazio G, Monini M, et al. Identification of Aichivirus in a Pet Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in Italy. Animals. 2024; 14(12):1765.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Alfano, Flora, Maria Gabriella Lucibelli, Francesco Serra, Martina Levante, Simona Rea, Amalia Gallo, Federica Petrucci, Alessia Pucciarelli, Gerardo Picazio, Marina Monini, and et al. 2024. "Identification of Aichivirus in a Pet Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in Italy" Animals 14, no. 12: 1765.

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