The effect of cowpox virus infection on fecundity in bank voles and wood mice

Proceedings. Biological Sciences
S FeoreM Begon


Although epidemic infectious diseases are a recognized cause of changes in host population dynamics, there is little direct evidence for the effect of endemic infections on populations. Cowpox virus is an orthopoxvirus which is endemic in bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus), wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and field voles (Microtus agrestis) in Great Britain. It does not cause obvious signs of disease nor does it affect survival, but in this study we demonstrate experimentally that it can reduce the fecundity of bank voles and wood mice by increasing the time to first litter by 20-30 days. The pathogenic mechanisms causing this effect are at present not known, but this finding suggests that natural subclinical infection could have a considerable effect on the dynamics of wild populations.


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