Unknown virus found in cattle

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New cattle virus detected in North Rhine-Westphalia

After more and more infections in cattle with a previously unknown pathogen were reported from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute for Animal Health (FLI) on the Baltic island of Riems has now expressed initial suspicions about the causes of the disease. According to this, a virus from the so-called Orthobunya virus is probably the cause of the symptoms observed in numerous cattle.

Since the summer months, several agricultural businesses in North Rhine-Westphalia have reported diseases in their cattle population which manifest themselves through symptoms such as high fever, loss of appetite and a sharp drop in milk (by up to 50 percent). The symptoms usually subsided after a few days, but since the cause of the disease remained unclear, there was growing concern about the possible risks of a previously unknown pathogen. The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute for Animal Health has now announced the first results of the laboratory tests of the submitted samples, which suggest infection with pathogens of the genus Orthobunya viruses - explicitly Akabane-like viruses. "Comparative analysis of the genetic material suggests that it is a virus from the group of Akabane-like viruses," reports the FLI in a recent press release.

Nine positive samples with the hitherto unknown cattle virus were initially suspected of having bluetongue as the cause of the symptoms, but this suspicion could be ruled out in the course of further investigations by the FLI. All samples submitted were examined for a large number of viruses in the Institute for Virus Diagnostics at the FLI Insel Riems. According to the FLI, “the virus of bluetongue, epizootic hemorrhage of the deer (EHD), foot and mouth disease, bovine virus diarrhea (BVD) and other pestiviruses, bovine herpes virus 1 and other herpes viruses and Rift Valley fever could Virus and bovine ephemeral fever virus ”can be excluded as the cause of the symptoms. However, the virus multiplication observed during the cultivation of selected samples on bovine cell cultures suggests an infection with a pathogen of the genus Orthobunya virus, which was previously unknown in Germany. According to the FLI, the virus was initially named "Schmallenberg virus" based on the origin of the samples in the Hochsauerland. According to its own statements, the FLI analyzed a total of "more than 100 samples from 14 plants", with at least nine positive samples from four plants containing the "Schmallenberg virus". However, according to the institute, further studies will have to investigate whether the pathogens were actually the cause of the symptoms in the cattle.

New virus harmless to humans According to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute for Animal Health, Orthobunya viruses have so far been common in cattle in "Oceania, Australia and Africa and generally only induce a very mild clinic there." In addition, the symptoms described above go away mostly back after a relatively short time. However, according to the FLI, the virus can cause “considerable congenital damage, premature birth and disturbances in fertility” in pregnant animals. A spokesman for the North Rhine-Westphalian Chamber of Agriculture said in Bonn on Monday that consumers are not at risk from the occurrence of the previously unknown viruses in German cattle herds because the virus is harmless to humans. As the FLI emphasized, despite the concrete evidence of the pathogens, “it is still unclear whether this is a new entry of this exotic virus or whether Orthobunya viruses have been present in cattle in Europe for a long time.” According to the FLI, these are, for example Netherlands reports “from more than 80 affected establishments”. According to the experts, the pathogens are transmitted by so-called beard mosquitoes.

Further investigations of the novel bovine virus necessary The FLI was able to detect the previously unknown virus with the help of the new method of so-called metagenome analysis, which "allows the undetected detection of genetic material (genome) of potential infectious agents or of genome sequences in sample material of any kind" . The FLI explained that the pathogen could be detected but not yet isolated using this special method for detecting viral genetic sequences. The FLI experts explained that the symptoms mentioned could not yet be unequivocally attributed to the pathogen. Therefore, the FLI "initiates further investigations, which include the optimized and expanded pathogen breeding, the inoculation of cattle, the development of serological diagnostics and the testing of further samples from the affected area." In addition, further epidemiological investigations are to follow. (fp)

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