Press releases from 21.11.2011
Evidence for presence of a new virus in cattle in Germany
Isle of Riems, 21 November 2011
During investigations of cattle in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, has found evidence for the existence of a new virus. Since the summer months, cases of fever of over 40°C, reduced general condition and a strong loss in milk yield had been observed in dairy cows in the region. In samples from affected animals, the FLI detected genetic material of a so far unknown pathogen by means of a new technique, the metagenomic analysis. First comparative investigations indicate that the pathogen is a virus of the genus Orthobunyavirus, which is related with the group of Akabane-like viruses. Similarly to the bluetongue disease virus, these pathogens are mainly transmitted by biting midges. Based on the geographic origin of the samples, the virus was provisionally named „Schmallenberg virus“. So far however, it has not been possible to isolate the agent. A causal relationship between the described symptoms and the Schmallenberg virus cannot be confirmed at present. Furthermore, it is unclear whether this exotic virus has been newly introduced or whether orthobunyaviruses have already been present undetected in cattle in Europe. Further investigations to characterize the virus and to assess its distribution are ongoing.
Orthobunyaviruses of cattle are widely distributed in Oceania, Australia, and Africa and, as a rule, initially induce very mild clinical symptoms. If pregnant animals are infected, however, temporarily delayed congenital damages, permature births, and reproductive disorders may occur. At first, the FLI had tested the samples from North Rhine-Westphalia for a series of known viruses (e.g. foot-and-mouth disease virus or bluetongue disease virus); none of these pathogens could be detected. Therefore, the new technique metagenomic analysis was used which permits the non-targeted detection of genetic material (genome) of potential infectious agents. This laborious technique made it possible to detect parts of the genetic material of the new pathogen which then was used to develop a polymerase chain reaction as sensitive and pathogen-specific detection method. Using this method, the genetic material of the pathogen so far has been detected in 9 animals from 4 holdings.
Dipl.-Biol. Elke Reinking (Press Officer)
Südufer 10, 17493 Greifswald - Insel Riems
Telephone: +49 38351 7-1244, Fax: +49 38351 7-1226