New evidence for endemic circulation of Ross River virus in the Pacific Islands and the potential for emergence

Int J Infect Dis. 2017 Apr;57:73-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2017.01.041. Epub 2017 Feb 8.


Objectives: An epidemic of Ross River virus (RRV) occurred in the South Pacific in 1979-1980, but RRV has not been thought to occur endemically outside Australia and Papua New Guinea. A seroprevalence study was conducted to determine whether RRV has circulated in American Samoa since 1980.

Methods: RRV ELISA IgG was performed on 200 serum samples collected in American Samoa in 2010; seroneutralization tests were performed on 60 representative samples.

Results: Of 196 available ELISA IgG results, 145 (74%, 95% confidence interval 67-80%) were seropositive. Of the 60 samples subjected to seroneutralization testing, none of the 15 ELISA IgG-negative and 16 of the 45 ELISA IgG-positive samples neutralized RRV. ELISA IgG seroprevalence was higher in persons born before/during the 1979-1980 RRV outbreak (78.3%), but was also high (63.0%) in people born after the outbreak who had lived their entire lives in American Samoa.

Conclusions: This study provides serological evidence that RRV circulation is likely to have occurred in American Samoa after 1980. Considering there are no marsupials in American Samoa, this finding implies that other species are capable of acting as reservoir hosts and indicates the potential for RRV to circulate in a much wider area than those currently recognized.

Keywords: Arboviruses; Ecology; Emerging infectious diseases; Epidemiology; Pacific Islands; River virus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alphavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Male
  • Pacific Islands / epidemiology
  • Ross River virus / isolation & purification*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G