Coronavirus in Rodents: Scientists discover new coronavirus strain in rodents in Sweden- Should we be alarmed?

Coronavirus in Rodents: The research team identified a new coronavirus strain known as aGrimso Virus in the bank voles caught around Grimso in Orebro County in Sweden. 

cientists discover new coronavirus strain in rodents in Sweden
cientists discover new coronavirus strain in rodents in Sweden

Coronavirus in Rodents: A team of scientists in Sweden have identified a new coronavirus commonly found in red-backed voles, small dark grey rodents similar to field mice.

The study was conducted by a team from the Zoonosis Science Center at Uppsala University and the findings were published in the scientific journal-Viruses. The head of the centre, Ake Lundkvist said, "Between 2015 and 2017, we consistently found what we have called the 'Grimso Virus' in 3.4 per cent of these voles, which would suggest that the virus is widespread and common in Sweden's bank voles."

The study covered approximately 260 bank voles caught around Grimso, in Orebro County in Sweden. The study shows that the coronavirus is well established in the red-backed voles.

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What are bank voles?

The bank vole is a small vole or rodent with red-brown fur and some grey patches. It has a long tail, which is about half the length of its body. It is commonly found in Europe and northwestern Asia. 

They live in hedgerows, woodland and other dense vegetation such as bracken and bramble. It is mostly herbivorous and eats buds, bark, seeds, nuts, leaves and fruits and occasionally insects and other small invertebrates. 

The Study: Key Highlights 

  • The research team mapped zoonotic viruses to increase the understanding of the interaction between viruses and host animals.
  • The research team found that seasonal coronaviruses such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 appear to have spread to humans from rodents including voles, mice and rats. 
  • This strain of coronavirus is different from SARS-CoV and MERS coronaviruses, which originate in bats.
  • The research team identified a new coronavirus strain known as aGrimso Virus using an RNA sequencing method. The coronavirus strain belongs to betacoronavirus family that also includes SARS-CoV, MERS and SARS-CoV-2. 
  • The rodents carry several zoonotic microorganisms including Tularemia and Hantaviruses, which means that they play a key role in how infectious diseases are spread.

Should we be alarmed?

The research team's lead scientist Ake Lundkvist said that they still do not know what potential threats the Grimso Virus may pose to public health. He however, said that based on their observations and previous coronaviruses identified among bank voles, "there is good reason to continue monitoring the coronavirus amongst wild rodents."


There has been an alarming increase in infectious diseases linked to small mammals such as rodents in recent years. Hence, research around the ecology of these host animals is essential to prevent future outbreaks.

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