Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) infection reduces fertility of Dutch dairy cattle and is vertically transmitted to offspring

I.M.G.A. Santman-Berends, J.J. Hage, P.A. van Rijn, J.A. Stegeman, G. van Schaik

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30 Citations (Scopus)


In 2007, BTV-8 re-emerged for the second year in the Netherlands and caused morbidity and increased mortality in cattle herds. In addition, cattle farmers reported reduced fertility in their cows. For this study, fifteen herds that were not vaccinated were selected. These were matched to 10 vaccinated herds by geographic region. At the start of the study, in July 2008, all cattle in the non-vaccinated herds >1 year old were sampled. All seronegative cows entered the study program and blood samples from these cows were tested for antibodies against BTV-8 in an ELISA. Cows were sampled at intervals of three weeks and sampling was stopped once a cow tested seropositive. Sampling ceased in all remaining cows in December 2008. Newborn calves originating from infected dams or from vaccinated dams were tested by PCR for BTV-8. Fertility data were obtained from the Royal Dutch Cattle Syndicate (CRV). Multi-level generalized latent and linear models were used for analyses. In 2008, 185 (17.2%) out of 1,074 initially seronegative non-vaccinated cattle seroconverted and were assumed to be infected with BTV-8. Infected cows were 5 (95% CI: 1.9–14.3) times more likely to return for insemination within 56 days after first insemination. In addition, these cows needed 1.7 (95% CI: 1.4–2.0) times more inseminations for an assumed pregnancy, and needed 2.5 (95% CI: 2.4–2.6) times more days between first and last insemination compared to the period prior to seroconversion and compared to cows not infected by BTV-8 in 2008. No association between BTV-8 infection and the chance to abort between 100 and 260 days after last insemination was found. In total, 48 calves originating from infected cows were tested by PCR for the presence of BTV-8. Ten (20.8%) out of these 48 calves were born PCR-positive. None of 256 calves from vaccinated dams tested PCR-positive. Further, cows infected during the second half of gestation had a 15.5 times (95% CI: 1.3–190.4) higher chance of a PCR-positive newborn calf compared to cows infected in the first half of gestation. This study showed that BTV-8 has a negative effect on fertility of dairy cattle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1384
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • netherlands
  • abortion

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