• Culicoides species composition and abundance on Irish cattle farms: implications for arboviral disease transmission

      Collins, Áine B; Mee, John F; Doherty, Michael L.; Barrett, Damien; England, Marion E; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2018-08-17)
      Background Following the emergence of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in Ireland in 2012, a sentinel herd surveillance program was established in the south of Ireland with the primary aim of investigating the species composition and abundance of Culicoides on livestock farms in the region. Methods Ultraviolet-light trapping for Culicoides was carried out on 10 sentinel farms. Each site was sampled fortnightly over 16 weeks (21st July to 5th November 2014). One Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute UV light trap was run overnight at each site and catches were transferred immediately into 70% ethanol. Culicoides were morphologically identified to species level. Collection site habitats were characterised using the Phase 1 habitat survey technique (Joint Nature Conservation Committee). Results A total of 23,929 individual Culicoides from 20 species was identified, including one species identified in Ireland for the first time, Culicoides cameroni. The most abundant species identified were Culicoides obsoletus/Culicoides scoticus (38%), Culicoides dewulfi (36%), Culicoides pulicaris (9%), Culicoides chiopterus (5%) and Culicoides punctatus (5%), comprising 93% of all Culicoides specimens identified. Collection site habitats were dominated by improved grassland and a combination of broadleaf woodland and native woodland species. Conclusions The most abundant species of Culicoides identified were the putative vectors of bluetongue virus (BTV) and SBV in northern Europe. Their presence and abundance demonstrates the potential for future transmission of arboviruses among livestock in this region.
    • Post-epidemic Schmallenberg virus circulation: parallel bovine serological and Culicoides virological surveillance studies in Ireland

      Collins, Áine B; Barrett, Damien; Doherty, Michael L.; Larska, M.; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR), Poland; PBS2/A8/24/2013 (Biomed Central, 2016-10-18)
      Background Schmallenberg virus (SBV) emerged in northern-Europe in 2011 resulting in an epidemic of ruminant abortions and congenital malformations throughout the continent. In the years following the epidemic there have been reports of SBV overwintering and continued circulation in several European countries. When the population-level of immunity declines in exposed regions, re-introduction of SBV could result in further outbreaks of Schmallenberg disease. The aims of this study were to determine the SBV seroprevalence in previously exposed Irish dairy herds in 2014 and to investigate if SBV continued to circulate in these herds in the three years (2013–2015) following the Irish Schmallenberg epidemic. Whole-herd SBV serosurveillance was conducted in 26 herds before (spring) and following the 2014 vector-season (winter), and following the 2015 vector-season (winter). In spring 2014, 5,531 blood samples were collected from 4,070 cows and 1,461 heifers. In winter 2014, 2,483 blood samples were collected from 1,550 youngstock (8–10 months old) and a subsample (n = 933; 288 cows, 645 heifers) of the seronegative animals identified in the spring. Youngstock were resampled in winter 2015. Culicoides spp. were collected in 10 herds during the 2014 vector-season and analysed for SBV; a total of 138 pools (3,048 Culicoides) from 6 SBV vector species were tested for SBV RNA using real-time PCR. Results In spring 2014, animal-level seroprevalence was 62.5 % (cows = 84.7 %; heifers = 0.6 %). Within-herd seroprevalence ranged widely from 8.5 %–84.1 % in the 26 herds. In winter 2014, 22 animals (0.9 %; 10 cows, 5 heifers, 7 youngstock) originating in 17 herds (range 1–4 animals/herd) tested seropositive. In winter 2015 all youngstock, including the 7 seropositive animals in winter 2014, tested seronegative suggesting their initial positive result was due to persistence of maternal antibodies. All of the Culicoides pools examined tested negative for SBV-RNA. Conclusions SBV appears to have recirculated at a very low level in these herds during 2013 and 2014, while there was no evidence of SBV infection in naïve youngstock during 2015. A large population of naïve animals was identified and may be at risk of infection in future years should SBV re-emerge and recirculate as it has done in continental Europe.
    • Schmallenberg virus: a systematic international literature review (2011-2019) from an Irish perspective

      Collins, Áine B; Doherty, Michael L; Barrett, Damien J; Mee, John F; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2019-10-09)
      In Autumn 2011, nonspecific clinical signs of pyrexia, diarrhoea, and drop in milk yield were observed in dairy cattle near the German town of Schmallenberg at the Dutch/German border. Targeted veterinary diagnostic investigations for classical endemic and emerging viruses could not identify a causal agent. Blood samples were collected from animals with clinical signs and subjected to metagenomic analysis; a novel orthobunyavirus was identified and named Schmallenberg virus (SBV). In late 2011/early 2012, an epidemic of abortions and congenital malformations in calves, lambs and goat kids, characterised by arthrogryposis and hydranencephaly were reported in continental Europe. Subsequently, SBV RNA was confirmed in both aborted and congenitally malformed foetuses and also in Culicoides species biting midges. It soon became evident that SBV was an arthropod-borne teratogenic virus affecting domestic ruminants. SBV rapidly achieved a pan-European distribution with most countries confirming SBV infection within a year or two of the initial emergence. The first Irish case of SBV was confirmed in the south of the country in late 2012 in a bovine foetus. Since SBV was first identified in 2011, a considerable body of scientific research has been conducted internationally describing this novel emerging virus. The aim of this systematic review is to provide a comprehensive synopsis of the most up-to-date scientific literature regarding the origin of SBV and the spread of the Schmallenberg epidemic, in addition to describing the species affected, clinical signs, pathogenesis, transmission, risk factors, impact, diagnostics, surveillance methods and control measures. This review also highlights current knowledge gaps in the scientific literature regarding SBV, most notably the requirement for further research to determine if, and to what extent, SBV circulation occurred in Europe and internationally during 2017 and 2018. Moreover, recommendations are also made regarding future arbovirus surveillance in Europe, specifically the establishment of a European-wide sentinel herd surveillance program, which incorporates bovine serology and Culicoides entomology and virology studies, at national and international level to monitor for the emergence and re-emergence of arboviruses such as SBV, bluetongue virus and other novel Culicoides-borne arboviruses.