Misinterpretation of Schmallenberg virus sequence variations: the sample material makes the difference
In recent reports about the molecular epidemiology of Schmallenberg virus (SBV), an orthobunyavirus affecting ruminants, it was proposed that the observed sequence variability within the viral M-segment might be higher in sheep than in cattle. However, these analyses are highly biased by the sample material from which the publicly available sequences were generated. While from cattle predominantly blood samples from acutely infected animals were studied, the vast majority of ovine samples originate from malformed fetuses or newborn lambs. Therefore, the observed sequence variability is misinterpreted since the samples from malformed fetuses and lambs do not reflect circulating SBV.