Sindbis virus – a wild bird associated zoonotic arbovirus circulates in Germany
Sindbis virus (SINV) is an arbovirus causing clinical symptoms such as arthritis, rash and fever following human infections in Fennoscandia. Its transmission cycle involves mosquito species as vectors as well as wild birds that act as natural reservoir hosts. In Germany, SINV was first time observed in 2009 in different mosquito species in the Upper Rhine valley and one year later in a hooded crow in Berlin. Recently, SINV was also detected repeatedly at various locations in Germany in the context of a mosquitoes monitoring program for arboviruses. In this study, we detected for just the second time a SINV infection in a diseased wild bird (common wood pigeon) from Central Europe. SINV was isolated by cell culture and the complete SINV genome sequence was determined. Phylogenetic analyses revealed a close affiliation to SINV genotype I with a high similarity to human isolate sequences from Finland, Sweden and Russia. The isolate was genetically distinct from the first avian isolate suggesting the circulation of at least two different SINV strains in Germany. In order to reveal the infection frequency in SINV positive mosquito regions 749 bird blood samples were assayed serologically and SINV antibodies found primarily in resident birds. SINV is therefore endemically circulating in mosquitoes in Germany, which results in occasional bird infections. No data are yet available on zoonotic transmission to humans.