Washington, Jan 20 : Swedish researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the hantavirus infection can spread among humans, by showing the presence of hantavirus in human saliva.
The research team at Umea University in Sweden says that their finding raises the question of whether this infection can spread among humans.
In Sweden, a form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome called nephropathia epidemica occurs primarily in the northern parts of the country.
It is a zoonosis, that is, an infectious disease that is normally transmitted between animals and humans when a bank vole, for instance, releases Puumala hantavirus via its saliva, urine, and feces.
Normally humans become infected by breathing in dust polluted by virus from bank vole secretions or by direct contact with the animal.
A recent study in South America has shown that the Andes hantavirus, which is closely related to the Puumala hantavirus, can in some cases be transmitted among humans.
The Umea team's findings indicate that a possible path of contagion for hantavirus disease might be human saliva.
For the study, the team collected saliva samples from 14 patients in Vasterbotten County during last year's outbreak of nephropathia epidemica in northern Sweden.
They found virus RNA in the saliva in ten cases.
It is not clear whether the virus found in human saliva is capable of infecting another human, but this question is now being studied intensively.Nephropathia epidemica, is a serious disease, with symptoms like high fevers, headaches, muscle pain, and abdominal pain.
The findings will soon be published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.