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Cross-Reaction or Co-Infection? Serological Discrimination of Antibodies Directed against Dugbe and Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Orthonairovirus in Nigerian Cattle

Dugbe orthonairovirus (DUGV) and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever orthonairovirus (CCHFV) are tick-borne arboviruses within the order Bunyavirales. Both viruses are endemic in several African countries and can induce mild (DUGV, BSL 3) or fatal (CCHFV, BSL 4) disease in humans. Ruminants play a major role in their natural transmission cycle. Therefore, they are considered as suitable indicator animals for serological monitoring studies to assess the risk for human infections. Although both viruses do not actually belong to the same serogroup, cross-reactivities have already been reported earlier—hence, the correct serological discrimination of DUGV and CCHFV antibodies is crucial. In this study, 300 Nigerian cattle sera (150 CCHFV seropositive and seronegative samples, respectively) were screened for DUGV antibodies via N protein-based ELISA, indirect immunofluorescence (iIFA) and neutralization assays. Whereas no correlation between the CCHFV antibody status and DUGV seroprevalence data could be demonstrated with a newly established DUGV ELISA, significant cross-reactivities were observed in an immunofluorescence assay. Moreover, DUGV seropositive samples did also cross-react in a species-adapted commercial CCHFV iIFA. Therefore, ELISAs seem to be able to reliably differentiate between DUGV and CCHFV antibodies and should preferentially be used for monitoring studies. Positive iIFA results should always be confirmed by ELISAs.

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