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Transplacental Infection and Apparently Immunotolerance Induced by a Wild-type Bluetongue Virus Serotype 8 Natural Infection


Dr. Kris De Clercq. CODA-CERVA-VAR, Department of Virology Groeselenberg 99, B-1180 Ukkel, Belgium. Tel.: +32 2 3790 400; Fax: +32 2 3790 666; Email:


Until recently, bluetongue (BT) virus (BTV) serotypes reportedly causing transplacental infections were all ascribed to the use of modified live virus strains. During the 2007 BT epidemic in Belgium, a significant increase in the incidence of abortions was reported. A study including 1348 foetuses, newborns and young animals with or without suspicion of BTV infection, was conducted to investigate the occurrence of natural transplacental infection caused by wild-type BTV-8 and to check the immunocompetence of newborns. BTV RNA was present in 41% and 18.5% of aborted foetuses from dams with or without suspected BTV involvement during pregnancy, respectively. The results of dam/calf pairs sampled before colustrum uptake provide evidence of almost 10% transplacental BTV infection in newborns. Apparently immunotolerant calves were found at a level of 2.4%. The current study concludes that the combined serological and real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) result of pregnant dams gives no indication of the infection status of the offspring except in the case of a double negative result. In a group of 109 calves with clinical suspicion of BT, born during the vector-free period, 11% were found to be RT-qPCR positive. The true prevalence was estimated to be 2.3%, indicating the extent of transplacental infection in a group of 733 calves of one to 4  months of age without BT suspicion. Moreover, virus isolation was successful for two newborn calves, emphasizing the need for restricting trade to BT-free regions of pregnant dams possibly infected during gestation, even if they are BTV RT-qPCR negative.

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