GLOBAL - Scientists better understand how the Bluetongue virus survives winters, as farmers across southern Europe try to cope with this summer’s rapidly spreading outbreak.
A demonstration of the virus surviving winter by reproducing in the culicoides insect – the vector – appeared in PLOS ONE pathogens last week, accompanying confirmation of Bluetongue in Albania.
The eighth country to send notification, Albania reported infections in cattle and goat populations.
Cattle, sheep, goats, deer and other wild ruminants could all be set to benefit as part of ‘important ramifications’ which could come from this improved understanding.
This is veterinary professor James MacLachan’s message, co-author of the University of California, Davis study, who added that the breakthrough could mean solutions in predicting and controlling outbreaks.
Summarising the study findings, lead author Christie Mayo said: “We were able to demonstrate that the virus overwinters in female midges that had fed on an infected animal during the previous season."
The study team stressed that the virus could be getting through colder months in other unknown ways.
Within Europe, Bluetongue has hit Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania this summer.
After surfacing in Italy last September, reports have flooded in from across the Balkans over the recent weeks after widespread cases in Greece.
However, prospects of more control methods would add to the current vaccination option, employed on a large scale in western Turkey, where authorities appear to have controlled the virus.
Vets responded with over 330,000 livestock vaccinations in the Kirklareli region last month.
Estimates on Bluetongue’s cost on the US cattle and sheep sector each year stand at $125 million.