Skip to main content

Movement patterns of small rodents in Lassa fever-endemic villages in Guinea

The Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) is the reservoir host of Lassa arenavirus, the etiological agent of Lassa fever in humans. Because there exists no vaccine for human use, rodent control and adjusting human behavior are currently considered to be the only options for Lassa fever control. In order to develop efficient rodent control programs, more information about the host’s ecology is needed. In this study, we investigated the spatial behavior of M. natalensis and other small rodents in two capture-mark-recapture and four dyed bait (Rhodamine B) experiments in Lassa fever-endemic villages in Upper Guinea. During the capture-mark-recapture studies, 23% of the recaptured M. natalensis moved between the houses and proximate fields. While M. natalensis was found over the entire study grid (2 ha), other rodent species (Praomys daltoni, Praomys rostratus, Lemniscomys striatus, Mus spp.) were mostly trapped in the surrounding fields. Distances between recapture occasions never exceeded 100 m for all rodent species. During the dyed bait experiments, 11% of M. natalensisand 41% of P. daltoni moved from the fields to houses. We conclude that commensal M. natalensis easily moves between houses and proximate fields in Guinea. We therefore consider occasional domestic rodent elimination to be an unsustainable approach to reduce Lassa virus transmission risk to humans, as M. natalensis is likely to reinvade houses quickly from fields in which rodents are not controlled. A combination of permanent rodent elimination with other control strategies (e.g., make houses rodent proof or attract predators) could be more effective for Lassa fever control, but must be further investigated.

Geography: Guinea
Reference: MARIËN J, KOUROUMA, F., MAGASSOUBA, N., LERIS, H., FICHET-CALVET, E. 2018. Movement Patterns of Small Rodents in Lassa Fever-Endemic Villages in Guinea. EcoHealth.1-12. doi: