Bluetongue virus serotype 27: Experimental infection of goats, sheep and cattle with three BTV-27 variants reveal atypical characteristics and likely direct contact transmission BTV-27 between goats
Bluetongue virus (BTV) hitherto consisted of 26 recognized serotypes, of which all except BTV-26 are primarily transmitted by certain species of Culicoides biting midges. Three variants of an additional 27th bluetongue virus serotype (BTV-27v01-v03) were recently detected in asymptomatic goats in Corsica, France, 2014–2015. Molecular characterization revealed genetic differences between the three variants. Therefore, in vivo characteristics were investigated by experimental infection of a total of 15 goats, 11 sheep and 4 cattle with any one of the three variants in separated animal trials. In goat trials, BTV-naïve animals of the same species were kept in a facility where direct contact was unhindered. Of the 15 inoculated goats, 13 and 14 animals were found positive for BTV-RNA and antibodies (Ab), respectively, until the end of the experiments. Surprisingly, BTV-Ab levels as measured with ELISA and neutralization test (SNT) were remarkably low in all seropositive goats. Virus isolation from whole-blood was possible at the peak of viremia until 49 dpi. Moreover, detection of BTV-27v02-RNA and Ab in one contact goat indicated that—similar to BTV-26—at least one of three BTV-27 variants may be transmitted by contact between goats. In the field, BTV-27 RNA can be detected up to 6 months in the whole-blood of BTV-27-infected Corsican goats. In contrast, BTV RNA was not detected in the blood of cattle or sheep. In addition, BTV-27 Abs were not detected in cattle and only a transient increase in Ab levels was observed in some sheep. None of the 30 animals showed obvious BT-like clinical signs. In summary, the phenotypes observed for BTV-27v01-v03 phenotypes correspond to a mixture of characteristics known for BTV-25 and 26.