The Association between Hantavirus Infection and Selenium Deficiency in Mainland China
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Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) caused by hantaviruses and transmitted by rodents is a significant public health problem in China, and occurs more frequently in selenium-deficient regions. To study the role of selenium concentration in HFRS incidence we used a multidisciplinary approach combining ecological analysis with preliminary experimental data. The incidence of HFRS in humans was about six times higher in severe selenium-deficient and double in moderate deficient areas compared to non-deficient areas. This association became statistically stronger after correction for other significant environment-related factors (low elevation, few grasslands, or an abundance of forests) and was independent of geographical scale by separate analyses for different climate regions. A case-control study of HFRS patients admitted to the hospital revealed increased activity and plasma levels of selenium binding proteins while selenium supplementation in vitro decreased viral replication in an endothelial cell model after infection with a low multiplicity of infection (MOI). Viral replication with a higher MOI was not affected by selenium supplementation. Our findings indicate that selenium deficiency may contribute to an increased prevalence of hantavirus infections in both humans and rodents. Future studies are needed to further examine the exact mechanism behind this observation before selenium supplementation in deficient areas could be implemented for HFRS prevention.