Schmallenberg Virus: To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate?
Schmallenberg virus (SBV), a teratogenic orthobunyavirus that infects predominantly ruminants, emerged in 2011 in Central Europe, spread rapidly throughout the continent, and subsequently established an endemic status with re-circulations to a larger extent every 2 to 3 years. Hence, it represents a constant threat to the continent’s ruminant population when no effective countermeasures are implemented. Here, we discuss potential preventive measures to protect from Schmallenberg disease. Previous experiences with other arboviruses like bluetongue virus have already demonstrated that vaccination of livestock against a vector-transmitted disease can play a major role in reducing or even stopping virus circulation. For SBV, specific inactivated whole-virus vaccines have been developed and marketing authorizations were granted for such preparations. In addition, candidate marker vaccines either as live attenuated, DNA-mediated, subunit or live-vectored preparations have been developed, but none of these DIVA-capable candidate vaccines are currently commercially available. At the moment, the licensed inactivated vaccines are used only to a very limited extent. The high seroprevalence rates induced in years of virus re-occurrence to a larger extent, the wave-like and sometimes hard to predict circulation pattern of SBV, and the expenditures of time and costs for the vaccinations presumably impact on the willingness to vaccinate. However, one should bear in mind that the consequence of seronegative young animals and regular renewed virus circulation might be again more cases of fetal malformation caused by an infection of naïve dams during one of their first gestations. Therefore, an appropriate and cost-effective strategy might be to vaccinate naïve female animals of all affected species before the reproductive age.