Bluetongue (BT) is a climate change-related emerging infectious disease in Europe. Outbreaks of serotypes 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 16 are challenging Central and Western Europe since 1998. Measures to control or eradicate bluetongue virus (BTV) from Europe have been implemented, including movement restrictions and vaccination of domestic BTV-susceptible ruminants. However, these measures are difficult to apply in wild free-ranging hosts of the virus, like red deer (Cervus elaphus), which could play a role in the still unclear epidemiology of BT in Europe. We show for the first time that BTV RNA can be detected in European red deer blood for long periods, comparable to those of domestic ruminants, after experimental infection with BTV-1 and BTV-8. BTV RNA was detected in experimentally infected red deer blood up to the end of the study (98-112. dpi). BTV-specific antibodies were found in serum both by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and virus neutralization (VNT) from 8 to 12. dpi to the end of the study, peaking at 17-28. dpi. Our results indicate that red deer can be infected with BTV and maintain BTV RNA for long periods, remaining essentially asymptomatic. Thus, unvaccinated red deer populations have the potential to be a BT reservoir in Europe, and could threaten the success of the European BTV control strategy. Therefore, wild and farmed red deer should be taken into account for BTV surveillance, and movement restrictions and vaccination schemes applied to domestic animals should be adapted to include farmed or translocated red deer. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
- BTV RNA
- Red deer