Mechanical transmission of lumpy skin disease virus by Rhipicephalus appendiculatus male ticks

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is an economically important, acute or sub-acute, viral disease of cattle that occurs across Africa and in the Middle East. The aim of this study was to investigate if lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) can be transmitted mechanically by African brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus Neum.). Laboratory-bred R. appendiculatus males were fed on experimentally infected viraemic ‘donor’ cattle. Partially fed male ticks were then transferred to feed on an uninfected ‘recipient’ cow. The recipient animal became viraemic, showed mild clinical signs of LSD and seroconverted. Additionally, R. appendiculatus males were found to transmit LSDV through feeding on skin lacking visible lesions, demonstrating that viraemic animals without lesions at the feeding site of ticks may be a source of infection. This is the first time that transmission of poxviruses by a tick species has been demonstrated and the importance of this mode of transmission in the spread of LSDV in endemic settings is discussed.

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