Schmallenberg virus in Germany 2011–2014: searching for the vectors
Following the emergence of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in 2011, 21,397 culicoid biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) from targeted and non-targeted sampling activities carried out during the summer months of 2011 to 2013 and in late 2014 in various regions in Germany were analyzed for the virus by real-time RT-PCR. While no SBV was found in biting midges collected during 2011 and 2013, 2 out of 334 pools including 20 and 22 non-engorged females of the Obsoletus complex sampled in 2012 tested positive for the SBV S-segment with Ct values of 42.46 and 35.45. In addition, 673 black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) captured during the same studies were screened for the presence of SBV and proved negative. In late autumn 2014, biting midges were collected again in a limited study in eastern Germany after some cases of SBV infection had occurred in a quarantine station for cattle. Due to the unfavorable seasonal weather conditions, only few specimens were caught, and these were also negative for SBV. The German experience suggests that biting midge collections launched only after an outbreak and are not locally targeted may be ineffective as to virus detection. It rather might be advisable to collect biting midges at sentinel farms on a permanent basis so to have material available to be examined in the case of a disease outbreak.