Hantaviruses have co-existed with their hosts for millions of years. Seewis virus (SWSV), a soricomorph-borne hantavirus, is widespread in Eurasia, ranging from Central Siberia to Western Europe. To gain insight into the phylogeography and evolutionary history of SWSV in Finland, lung tissue samples of 225 common shrews (Sorex araneus) trapped from different parts of Finland were screened for the presence of SWSV RNA. Forty-two of the samples were positive. Partial small (S), medium (M) and large (L) segments of the virus were sequenced, and analyzed together with all SWSV sequences available in Genbank. The phylogenetic analysis of the partial S-segment sequences suggested that all Finnish SWSV strains shared their most recent common ancestor with the Eastern European strains, while the L-segment suggested multiple introductions. The difference between the L- and S-segment phylogenies implied that reassortment events play a role in the evolution of SWSV. Of the Finnish strains, variants from Eastern Finland occupied the root position in the phylogeny, and had the highest genetic diversity, supporting the hypothesis that SWSV reached Finland first form the east. During the spread in Finland, the virus has formed three separate lineages, identified here by correlation analysis of genetic versus geographic distance combined with median-joining network analysis. These results support the hypothesis that Finnish SWSV recolonized Finland with its host, the common shrew, from east after the last ice age 12,000–8000 years ago, and then subsequently spread along emerging land bridges towards west or north with the migration and population expansion of its host.
- Sorex araneus