The Occurrence of a Commercial Npro and Erns Double Mutant BVDV-1 Live-Vaccine Strain in Newborn Calves
The major source for the spread of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) are in-utero infected, immunotolerant, persistently infected (PI) animals since they shed enormous amounts of viruses throughout their lives. During the sequence-based virus typing of diagnostic ear notch samples performed in the context of the obligatory German BVDV eradication program, the commercial Npro and Erns double mutant BVDV-1 live-vaccine strain KE-9 was detected in seven newborn calves; their mothers were immunized in the first trimester of gestation. Six calves either succumbed or were culled immediately, but the one remaining animal was closely monitored for six months. The viral RNA was detected in the skin sample taken in its first and fifth week of life, but the virus could not be isolated. Further skin biopsies that were taken at monthly intervals as well as every serum and urine sample, nasal, oral, and rectal swabs taken weekly tested BVDV negative. However, neutralizing titers against BVDV-1 remained at a consistently high level. To further control for virus shedding, a BVDV antibody and antigen negative calf was co-housed which remained negative throughout the study. The missing viremia, a lack of excretion of infectious virus and negative follow-up skin samples combined with consistently high antibody titers speak against the induction of the classical persistent infection by vaccination with recombinant KE-9 during gestation. We, therefore, suggest that the epidemiological impact of the RNA/antigen positivity for an extended period in the skin is very low. The detection of live-vaccine viruses in skin biopsies mainly represents a diagnostic issue in countries that implemented ear notch-based control programs; and KE9-specific RT-PCRs or sequence analysis can be used to identify these animals and avoid culling measures.