The hanta hunting study: underdiagnosis of Puumala hantavirus infections in symptomatic non-travelling leptospirosis-suspected patients in the Netherlands, in 2010 and April to November 2011

Marco Goeijenbier, RA Hartskeerl, J Reimerink, J Verner-Carlsson, JF Wagenaar, MG Goris, Byron Martina, A Lundkvist, Marion Koopmans, Ab Osterhaus, EC van Gorp, Chantal Reusken

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Leptospirosis and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) are hard to distinguish clinically since these two important rodent-borne zoonoses share hallmark symptoms such as renal failure and haemorrhage. Leptospirosis is caused by infection with a spirochete while HFRS is the result of an infection with certain hantaviruses. Both diseases are relatively rare in the Netherlands. Increased incidence of HFRS has been observed since 2007 in countries that border the Netherlands. Since a similar rise in incidence has not been registered in the Netherlands, we hypothesise that due to overlapping clinical manifestations, hantavirus infections may be confused with leptospirosis, leading to underdiagnosis. Therefore, we tested a cohort of non-travelling Dutch patients with symptoms compatible with leptospirosis, but with a negative diagnosis, during 2010 and from April to November 2011. Sera were screened with pan-hantavirus IgG and IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Sera with IgM reactivity were tested by immunofluorescence assay (IFA). ELISA (IgM positive) and IFA results were confirmed using focus reduction neutralisation tests (FRNTs). We found hantavirus-specific IgG and/or IgM antibodies in 4.3% (11/255) of samples taken in 2010 and in 4.1% (6/146) of the samples during the 2011 period. After FRNT confirmation, seven patients were classed as having acute Puumala virus infections. A review of hantavirus diagnostic requests revealed that at least three of the seven confirmed acute cases as well as seven probable acute cases of hantavirus infection were missed in the Netherlands during the study period.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Research programs

  • EMC MM-04-27-01
  • EMC MM-04-28-04

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