Detection and identification of the “Schmallenberg” virus

Within the scope of EMPERIE, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI), has successfully detected and identified the novel Orthobunyavirus virus, named provisionally Schmallenberg virus, which has infected cattle, sheep and goats in Europe.

In summer and autumn 2011, an unidentified disease in dairy cattle was reported in Germany and the Netherlands causing, amongst others, fever, diarrhea, and decreased milk production. As long-term consequence, malformed newborn animals have been observed since December 2011. Within several months, the disease was detected in different countries in Europe. Within the scope of EMPERIE, one of the partners successfully detected and identified the novel Orthobunyavirus virus that has infected cattle, sheep and goats in Western Europe and distributed a diagnostic PCR-system to other laboratories in Europe. Identification of this novel Orthobunyavirus virus as the causative pathogen of the disease is important as it leads the way to intervention strategies to prevent further spread of the disease.

The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI) has first detected this virus in the area of Schmallenberg, Germany, using metagenomic analysis on blood samples of affected animals. A metagenomic approach is a novel method to discovering emerging pathogens, which has been adopted and promoted by the EMPERIE consortium. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that the novel virus is a Shamonda-like virus within the genus Orthobunyavirus of the family Bunyaviridae. Viruses of this genus are widely distributed in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, but have not been detected in Europe previously. Transmission of the viruses occurs mainly through mosquitoes and Culicoides spp (biting midges). As the closely related viruses of the genus Orthobunyavirus are no zoonotic agents, Schmallenberg virus most likely does not represent a risk for humans. Further studies for characterization of the virus and epidemiological studies will continue.

Relevant publication: Hoffmann, Scheuch, Höper, Jungblut, Holsteg, Schirrmeier, Eschbaumer, Goller, Wernike, Fischer, Breithaupt, Mettenleiter, and Beer. Novel Orthobunyavirus in Cattle, Europe, 2011. Emerg Infect Dis, vol. 18, 2012 Mar [ahead of print]

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