Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Volume 20, Number 5—May 2014

Letter

Schmallenberg Virus Antibodies in Adult Cows and Maternal Antibodies in Calves

On This Page

Figures

Suggested citation for this article

To the Editor: Schmallenberg virus (SBV), a novel orthobunyavirus that is transmitted by Culicoides spp. biting midges, spread through herds of ruminants across Europe during 2011–2013. The virus reached as far as Finland in the north, the Republic of Ireland in the west, Turkey in the east (1), and Spain in the south. The clinical effect of SBV infection in ruminant livestock appears to be limited (2), and a vaccine to prevent the infection has been developed (3). There are no data to refute the assumption that natural SBV infection results in long-term immunity, as was seen earlier with natural infection of cattle with bluetongue virus serotype 8 (4). Newborn calves acquire passive immunity by ingestion and absorption of antibodies present in colostrum. Passive immunity can, however, block the production of serum antibodies when vaccine is administered to calves that have maternally derived antibodies (5). To determine the titers and persistence of SBV antibodies in adult cows and the decay of maternal antibodies in calves over time, we studied a herd of cattle from a dairy farm in the eastern Netherlands during April 2012–April 2013.

The dairy farm is the only location in the Netherlands where monitoring for biting midges was continuously conducted during the 2011–2013 SBV epidemic and where SBV RNA was detected in biting midges caught during 2011–2012 (6,7). The dairy herd comprised 110 animals: 60 milking cows (average age 4.0 years) and 50 heifers (average age 1.5 years) and calves (<1.0 year of age). No clinical signs or symptoms of SBV infection were observed in any of the cattle at the end of 2011 or during 2012. However, during the study period, 3 calves were stillborn, none of which had the characteristic malformations observed after SBV infection. Gross pathology confirmed that the calves did not have SBV infection, and all tissue samples were negative for SBV by reverse transcription PCR.

During the 12-month study, we obtained 4 blood samples from all animals in the herd. A virus neutralization test (VNT) was used to test the samples for antibodies (8). For optimal specificity and sensitivity, the VNT cutoff dilution was set at 1:8. Test dilutions ranged from 1:4–1:512. All samples were tested in duplicate; titers were determined using the Reed-Münch method and expressed on a log2 scale.

Blood samples were first obtained from the herd on April 19, 2012, after retrospective detection of SBV RNA in biting midges that had been collected from the farm on September 14, 2011 (6). The remaining 3 blood samples for each animal were collected on September 17, 2012; December 9, 2012; and April 23, 2013 (5, 8, and 12 months, respectively, after the first collection). SBV VNT results for the initial blood samples were positive for all cows ≥1 year of age and for all but four 6-month-old calves. One year later, blood samples for 98% of the cows ≥1 year of age and 50% of the cows <1 year of age were SBV seropositive. During the year, the mean log2 VNT titer of the adult cows dropped from 8.3 to 6.7.

It can be assumed that cows ≥1 year of age became infected with SBV around the time SBV-infected Culicoides biting midges were detected on the farm in September 2011 (6). Thus, at least 19 months after natural infection, these cows were probably protected against SBV when re-exposed to the virus. Of all cattle tested, 11 heifers seroconverted between April 2012 and September 2012, and 1 cow seroconverted between the September and December 2012 samplings. The low rate of seroconversion was matched by a 6× lower proportion of SBV-infected Culicoides midges found in 2012 than in 2011 (7). We also assume that the level of SBV circulating in the area during 2012 was lower than that in 2011.

Figure

Thumbnail of Schmallenberg virus antibody titers for 13 calves in a study to determine the decline of maternal antibodies in calves, the Netherlands,  2012–2013. Titers were determined by using a virus neutralization test and 2–4 blood samples per calf over time.

Figure. Schmallenberg virus antibody titers for 13 calves in a study to determine the decline of maternal antibodies in calves, the Netherlands, 2012–2013Titers were determined by using a virus neutralization test...

Blood samples obtained from 13 calves ≤30 days after birth had a mean log2 SBV VNT titer of 8.0 (range 6.5–9.5) and were seronegative at the last blood sampling on April 23, 2013 (Figure). The mean length of time between birth and the first detection of seronegative status was 180 days (range 120-240).

There are few reports regarding the decay of maternal antibodies against orthobunyaviruses in ruminants. Tsutsui and colleagues (9) showed that dairy calves lost their maternally derived antibodies against Akabane virus at ≈4 months of age, and Grimstad and colleagues (10) showed that young white-tailed deer lost their maternally derived antibodies against Jamestown Canyon virus at 5–6 months of age. Consistent with those findings, our results show that calves lose maternally derived SBV antibodies at ≈6 months of age and can then be effectively vaccinated against SBV.

Armin R.W. ElbersComments to Author , Norbert Stockhofe, and Wim H.M. van der Poel
Author affiliations: Central Veterinary Institute, Lelystad, the Netherlands

References

  1. Yilmaz H, Hoffmann B, Turan N, Cizmecigil UY, Satir E, Richt JA, Detection and partial sequencing of Schmallenberg virus in cattle and sheep in Turkey. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. Epub 2014 Feb 27.PubMed
  2. European Food Safety Authority. Schmallenberg virus: analysis of the epidemiological data. (May 2013). Supporting publications 2013:EN-429 [cited 2013 May 20]. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/supporting/pub/429e.htm
  3. Case P. SBV vaccine approval makes good progress [cited 2013 May 18]. Farmers Weekly. 2013 Feb 20. http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/20/02/2013/137748/sbv-vaccine-approval-makes-good-progress.htm
  4. Eschbaumer M, Eschweiler J, Hoffmann B. Long-term persistence of neutralising antibodies against bluetongue virus serotype 8 in naturally infected cattle. Vaccine. 2012;30:71423 and. DOIPubMed
  5. Kimman TG, Westenbrink F, Schreuder BEC, Straver PJ. Local and systemic antibody response to bovine respiratory syncytial virus infection and reinfection in calves with and without maternal antibodies. J Clin Microbiol. 1987;25:1097106 .PubMed
  6. Elbers ARW, Meiswinkel R, van Weezep E, Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan MM, Kooi EA. Schmallenberg virus detected by RT-PCR in Culicoides biting midges captured during the 2011 epidemic in the Netherlands. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013;19:1069 and. DOIPubMed
  7. Elbers ARW, Meiswinkel R, van Weezep E, Kooi EA, van der Poel WHM. Schmallenberg virus in Culicoides biting midges in the Netherlands in 2012. Transbound Emerg Dis. Epub 2013 Jul 24.
  8. Loeffen W, Quak S, de Boer-Luijtze E, Hulst M, van der Poel WHM, Bouwstra R, Development of a virus neutralisation test to detect antibodies against Schmallenberg virus and serological results in suspect and infected herds. Acta Vet Scand. 2012;54:44 and. DOIPubMed
  9. Tsutsui T, Yamamoto T, Hayama Y, Akiba Y, Nishiguchi A, Kobayashi S, Duration of maternally derived antibodies against Akabane virus in calves: survival analysis. J Vet Med Sci. 2009;71:9138 and. DOIPubMed
  10. Grimstad PR, Williams DG, Schmitt SM. Infection of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Michigan with Jamestown Canyan virus (California serogroup) and the importance of maternal antibody in viral maintenance. J Wildl Dis. 1987;23:1222 and. DOIPubMed

Figure

Suggested citation for this article: Elbers ARW, Stockhofe N, van der Poel WHM. Schmallenberg virus antibodies in adult cows and maternal antibodies in calves [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 May [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2005.130763

DOI: 10.3201/eid2005.130763

Related Links

Table of Contents – Volume 20, Number 5—May 2014

Comments to the Authors

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Armin Elbers, Department of Epidemiology, Crisis Organization and Diagnostics, Central Veterinary Institute, Houtribweg 39, 8221 RA Lelystad, the NetherlandsArmin Elbers, Department of Epidemiology, Crisis Organization and Diagnostics, Central Veterinary Institute, Houtribweg 39, 8221 RA Lelystad, the Netherlands

character(s) remaining.

Comment submitted successfully, thank you for your feedback.

Comments to the EID Editors

Please contact the EID Editors via our Contact Form.

TOP