Transplacental Transmission of Bluetongue Virus Serotype 1 and Serotype 8 in Sheep: Virological and Pathological Findings

M.T.W. van der Sluijs, D.P.H. Schroer-Joosten, A. Fid-Fourkour, M.P. Vrijenhoek, I. Debyser, V. Moulin, R.J.M. Moormann, A.J. de Smit

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The Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) strain, which emerged in Europe in 2006, had an unusually high ability to cause foetal infection in pregnant ruminants. Other serotypes of BTV had already been present in Europe for more than a decade, but transplacental transmission of these strains had never been demonstrated. To determine whether transplacental transmission is a unique feature of BTV-8 we compared the incidence and pathological consequences of transplacental transmission of BTV-8 to that of BTV-1. Nine pregnant ewes were infected with either BTV-8 or BTV-1. The BTV strains used for the infection were field strains isolated on embryonated chicken eggs and passaged twice on mammalian cells. Blood samples were taken to monitor the viraemia in the ewes. Four weeks after the infection, the foetuses were examined for pathological changes and for the presence of BTV. BTV-8 could be demonstrated in 12 foetuses (43%) from 5 ewes (56%). %). BTV-1 was detected in 14 foetuses (82%) from 6 ewes (67%). Pathological changes were mainly found in the central nervous system. In the BTV-8 group, lympho-histiocytic infiltrates, gliosis and slight vacuolation of the neuropil were found. BTV-1infection induced a severe necrotizing encephalopathy and severe meningitis, with macroscopic hydranencephaly or porencephaly in 8 foetuses. In our experimental setting, using low passaged virus strains, BTV-1 was able to induce transplacental transmission to a higher incidence compared to BTV-8, causing more severe pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere81429
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • induced congenital encephalopathies
  • vaccine virus
  • infection
  • cattle
  • strains
  • ewes
  • reassortment
  • orbivirus
  • responses
  • sequence

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