Sheep and goats as indicator animals for the circulation of CCHFV in the environment
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is a tick-borne virus, which causes a serious illness with case-fatality rates of up to 80 % in humans. CCHFV is endemic in many countries of Africa, Asia and Southeastern Europe. Next to the countries with endemic areas, the distribution of CCHFV is unknown in Southeastern Europe. As the antibody prevalence in animals is a good indicator for the presence or absence of the virus in a region, seroepidemiological studies can be used for the definition of risk areas for CCHFV. The aim of the present study was to reveal which ruminant species is best suited as indicator for the detection of a CCHFV circulation in an area. Therefore, the prevalence rates in sheep, goats and cattle in different regions of Albania and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were investigated. As there are no commercial tests available for the detection of CCHFV-specific antibodies in animals, two commercial tests for testing human sera were adapted for the investigation of sera from sheep and goats, and new in-house ELISAs were developed. The investigation of serum samples with these highly sensitive and specific assays (94–100 %) resulted in an overall prevalence rate of 23 % for Albania and of 49 % for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Significant lower seroprevalence rates for CCHFV were found in cattle than in small ruminants in given areas. These results indicate that small ruminants are more suitable indicator animals for CCHFV infections and should therefore be tested preferentially, when risk areas are to be identified.