Five hundred fifty-six samples representing 24 species of small mammals (two species of marsupials and 22 rodents) were collected in Panama between February 2000 and July 2002. The samples were examined for antibodies to hantaviruses by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or immunoblot assays. The serologic results indicated that several rodent species might act as hantaviral reservoirs in Panama: Costa Rican pygmy rice rat (Oligoryzomys fulvescens costaricensis), four positive of 72 tested (5.6%); Cherrie's cane rat (Zygodontomys brevicauda cherriei), five of 108 (4.6%); Mexican deer mouse (Peromyscus mexicanus), one of 22 (5%); Mexican harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys mexicanus), one of seven (14%); Chiriquí harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys creper), one of two (50%); and Sumichrast's harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys sumichrasti), three of four (75%). Hantavirus infection in Peromyscus mexicanus and the three species of Reithrodontomys was caused by Rio Segundo hantavirus, a species of virus not previously reported from Panama. At least three hantaviruses, therefore, are known to infect populations of wild rodents in the country. However, given the total number of animals tested, the role of these rodent species in the epidemiology and epizootiology of hantavirus infections remains unclear.
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