, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 348–359 | Cite as

Movement Patterns of Small Rodents in Lassa Fever-Endemic Villages in Guinea

  • Joachim Mariën
  • Fodé Kourouma
  • N’Faly Magassouba
  • Herwig Leirs
  • Elisabeth Fichet-Calvet
Original Contribution


The Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) is the reservoir host of Lassa arenavirus, the etiological agent of Lassa fever in humans. Because there exists no vaccine for human use, rodent control and adjusting human behavior are currently considered to be the only options for Lassa fever control. In order to develop efficient rodent control programs, more information about the host’s ecology is needed. In this study, we investigated the spatial behavior of M. natalensis and other small rodents in two capture-mark-recapture and four dyed bait (Rhodamine B) experiments in Lassa fever-endemic villages in Upper Guinea. During the capture-mark-recapture studies, 23% of the recaptured M. natalensis moved between the houses and proximate fields. While M. natalensis was found over the entire study grid (2 ha), other rodent species (Praomys daltoni, Praomys rostratus, Lemniscomys striatus, Mus spp.) were mostly trapped in the surrounding fields. Distances between recapture occasions never exceeded 100 m for all rodent species. During the dyed bait experiments, 11% of M. natalensis and 41% of P. daltoni moved from the fields to houses. We conclude that commensal M. natalensis easily moves between houses and proximate fields in Guinea. We therefore consider occasional domestic rodent elimination to be an unsustainable approach to reduce Lassa virus transmission risk to humans, as M. natalensis is likely to reinvade houses quickly from fields in which rodents are not controlled. A combination of permanent rodent elimination with other control strategies (e.g., make houses rodent proof or attract predators) could be more effective for Lassa fever control, but must be further investigated.


Mastomys natalensis Lassa virus Rhodamine B Capture-mark-recapture Rodent control 



Joachim Mariën is a research fellow of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS). We are particularly grateful to the field assistants of the Projet des Fièvres Hémorragiques en Guinée, who participated to the rodent sampling: Amara Camara, Mamadou Condé, Moussa Fofana, and Morlaye Sylla. We thanks Dr Mory Cherif, who facilitated the field work by his constant medical support toward the communities. We thank Dr Mami Cécé Gowara, Directeur Régional de la Santé, Dr N’Faly Bangoura, Directeur Préfectoral and Sayon Oulare who facilitated our work in the Faranah prefecture. The research was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FI 1781/1&2-1 and LE SPP 1596) and by the University of Antwerp and the Antwerp study centre for disease (ASCID) Grant Number GOA BOF FFB3567.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Alliance 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Mariën
    • 1
  • Fodé Kourouma
    • 2
  • N’Faly Magassouba
    • 2
  • Herwig Leirs
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Fichet-Calvet
    • 3
  1. 1.Evolutionary Ecology GroupUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratoire des Fièvres Hémorragiques, NongoConakryGuinea
  3. 3.Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical MedicineHamburgGermany

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