Rift Valley fever virus infections in Egyptian cattle and their prevention
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) causes consistently severe outbreaks with high public health impacts and economic losses in livestock in many African countries and has also been introduced to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Egypt with its four large outbreaks in the last 40 years represents the northernmost endemic area of RVFV. The purpose of this study was to provide an insight into the current anti-RVFV antibody status in immunized as well as non-immunized dairy cattle from the Nile Delta of Egypt. During 2013–2015, a total of 4,167 dairy cattle from four governorates including Dakahlia, Damietta, Gharbia and Port Said were investigated. All cattle were born after 2007 and therewith after the last reported Egyptian RVFV outbreak in 2003. The samples derived from vaccinated animals from 26 different dairy farms as well as non-immunized cattle from 27 different smallholding flocks. All samples were examined following a three-part analysis including a commercially available competition ELISA, an in-house immunofluorescence assay and a virus neutralization test. Additionally, a subset of samples was analysed for acute infections using IgM ELISA and real-time reverse transcriptase PCR. The results indicated that the RVFV is still circulating in Egypt as about 10% of the non-immunized animals exhibited RVFV-specific antibodies. Surprisingly, the antibody prevalence in immunized animals was not significantly higher than that in non-vaccinated animals which points out the need for further evaluation of the vaccination programme. Due to the substantial role of livestock in the amplification and transmission of RVFV, further recurrent monitoring of the antibody prevalence in susceptible species is highly warranted.