Emergence of bluetongue serotypes in Europe, part 2: the occurrence of a BTV-11 strain in Belgium

An EDTA-blood sample from a cow without clinical signs, which gave early birth to a newborn calf that died soon after delivery, was shown to be positive for bluetongue virus (BTV)-RNA using a group-specific real-time RT-PCR (RT-qPCR). In-house serotype-specific RT-qPCR assays for bluetongue virus serotype 1 (BTV-1), -6 and -8 all gave negative results. Subsequent assays were carried out using conventional (gel-based) RT-PCR primers for all 25 BTV serotypes and only two primer sets, both specific for BTV-11, gave bands of the expected size. The cDNAs generated were sequenced and comparisons of the genome segment 2 sequence with that of the modified ‘live’ vaccine strain of BTV-11 from South Africa showed 100% identity. A survey of all ruminants in a 1-km area around the first positive farm using a BTV-11 serotype-specific RT-qPCR revealed five other holdings with in total nine BTV-11 positive animals. A cross-sectional monitoring of dairy cattle in Belgium showed an overall prevalence of 3.8% on herd level and 0.2% on animal level. A BTV-11 has been introduced into the Belgian cattle herd during the 2008 vector season. The source of the infection and the way by which the virus was introduced are unknown.

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