House mice (Mus domesticus) were recently introduced to Thevenard Island, off the northwest coast of Western Australia. This island is also habitat for an endangered native rodent, the short-tailed mouse (Leggadina lakedownensis). Concerns have been raised that house mice may pose a threat to L. lakedownensis both through competition and as a source of infection. To assess the threat to L. lakedownensis posed by viral pathogens from M. domesticus, a serological survey was conducted from 1994 to 1996 of both species for evidence of infection with 14 common murine viruses (mouse hepatitis virus, murine cytomegalovirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, ectromelia virus, mouse adenovirus strains FL and K87, minute virus of mice, mouse parvovirus, reovirus type 3, Sendai virus, Theiler's mouse encephalomyelitis virus, polyoma virus, pneumonia virus of mice, and encephalomyocarditis virus) and Mycoplasma pulmonis. Despite previous evidence that populations of free-living M. domesticus from various locations on the Australian mainland were infected with up to eight viruses, M. domesticus on Thevenard Island were seropositive only to murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). Antibodies to MCMV were detected in this species at all times of sampling, although seroprevalence varied. Infectious MCMV could be isolated in culture of salivary gland homogenates from seropositive mice. In contrast, L. lakedownensis on Thevenard Island showed no serological evidence of infection with MCMV, any of the other murine viruses, or M. pulmonis, and no virus could be isolated in culture from salivary gland homogenates. Although MCMV replicated to high titers in experimentally infected inbred BALB/c laboratory mice as expected, it did not replicate in the target organs of experimentally inoculated L. lakedownensis, indicating that the strict host specificity of MCMV may prevent its infection of L. lakedownensis. These results suggest that native mice on Thevenard Island are not at risk of MCMV infection from introduced house mice, and raise interesting questions about the possible selective survival of MCMV in small isolated populations of M. domesticus.
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Vol. 35 • No. 2