Virological and Serological Responses of Sheep and Cattle to Experimental Schmallenberg Virus Infection
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is an orthobunyavirus in the Simbu serogroup that emerged in Germany in late 2011 and was mostly associated with a mild transient disease of sheep and cattle. SBV is transmitted by biting midges (Culicoides species) and causes abortions, stillbirths, and congenital defects in naïve pregnant ruminants. Two separate studies were conducted with a primary objective of better understanding the virological and serological responses of sheep and cattle to different SBV isolates after experimental infection. The second objective was to produce immunoreagents and challenge materials for use in future vaccine and diagnostics research. These studies were carried out using the following infectious inocula: (i) infectious serum (IS) (ii) cell culture-grown virus, and (iii) infectious lamb brain homogenate. The responses were assessed in both species throughout the course of the experiment. SBV RNA in serum (RNAemia) was detected as early as 2 (in sheep) and 3 (in cattle) days postinfection (dpi) and peaked on 3 and 4 dpi in cattle and sheep, respectively. Cattle had higher levels of RNAemia compared with sheep. Experimental infection with IS resulted in the highest level of RNAemia in both species followed by cell culture-grown virus. A delayed, low level RNAemia was detected in cattle inoculated with infectious sheep brain. Isolation of SBV was only possible from 4 dpi sera from all cattle inoculated with IS and one sheep inoculated with cell culture-derived virus. SBV neutralizing antibodies were first detected on 14 dpi in both species. No specific gross and microscopic lesions were observed in either study. In conclusion, these studies highlight not only the difference in viremia and anti-SBV antibody level against the different SBV isolates, but also the extent of the response in the two host species.