Small rodents were collected live in two different locations within a nephropathia epidemica (NE) endemic area, and tested for both antiviral serum antibodies and viral antigens in lung sections. In one location, only Apodemus sylvaticus (woodmice) were found in the traps, in the other, both A. sylvaticus and Clethrionomys glareolus (bank voles) were collected.
Among the woodmice from the former location the prevalence of NE virus markers was significantly lower than for either woodmice or bank voles from the other location, and no NE antigen-positive animals was found. The woodmice co-existing with bank voles had a lower prevalence of NE antigen and antibodies than the bank voles, and fewer woodmice had both antibodies and antigen. The results emphasize the important role of bank voles as a major NE virus reservoir and probable source of human infections.