Experimental infection with high- and low-virulence strains of border disease virus (BDV) in Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) sheds light on the epidemiological diversity of the disease

Andreu Colom-Cadena, Ignasi Marco, Xavier Fernández Aguilar, Roser Velarde, Johan Espunyes, Rosa Rosell, Santiago Lavín, Oscar Cabezón

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Since 2001, Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica) populations have been affected by border disease virus (BDV) causing mortalities of more than 80% in some areas. Field studies carried out in France, Andorra, and Spain have shown different epidemiological scenarios in chamois populations. This study was designed to confirm the presence of BDV strains of a high and low virulence in free-ranging chamois populations from Pyrenees and to understand the implications of these findings to the diverse epidemiological scenarios. An experimental infection of Pyrenean chamois with a high-virulence (Cadi-6) and low-virulence (Freser-5) BDV strains was performed. Pregnant and non-pregnant animals with and without antibodies against BDV were included in each group. Cadi-6 BDV strain was confirmed to be of high virulence for seronegative adults and their foetuses. The antibody negative chamois infected with Freser-5 BDV strain did not show symptoms, presented less viral distribution and RNA load in tissues than Cadi-6 group, and cleared the virus from the serum. However, foetuses died before the end of the experiment and RNA virus was detected in sera and tissues although with lower RNA load than the Cadi-6 group. Chamois from both groups presented lesions in brain but the ones infected with the low-virulence Freser-5 BDV strain were mild and most likely transient. In both groups, seropositive pregnant females and all but one of their foetuses did not present viraemia or viral RNA in tissues. The existence of a low-virulence strain has been confirmed experimentally and related to chamois population infection dynamics in the area where it was isolated. Such strain may persist in the chamois population through PI animals and may induce cross-protection in chamois against high-virulence strains. This study demonstrates that viral strain diversity is a significant factor in the heterogeneity of epidemiological scenarios in Pyrenean chamois populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1619-1630
Number of pages12
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • border disease virus
  • chamois
  • experimental infection
  • pestivirus
  • Rupicapra p. pyrenaica
  • virulence
  • Andorra/epidemiology
  • France/epidemiology
  • Virulence
  • Pregnancy
  • Animals
  • Rupicapra/virology
  • Border Disease/epidemiology
  • Border disease virus/genetics
  • Female
  • Sheep
  • Spain/epidemiology
  • pyrenaica
  • AGE
  • Rupicapra p


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