Rasmussen, Lasse Dam1; Savini, Giovanni3; Lorusso, Alessio3; Bellacicco, Anna3; Palmarini, Massimo4; Caporale, Marco3; Rasmussen, Thomas Bruun1; Belsham, Graham1; Bøtner, Anette1
1 National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark2 Section for Virology, National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark3 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise “G. Caporale”4 University of Glasgow
Transplacental transmission of bluetongue virus has been shown previously for the North European strain of serotype 8 (BTV-8) and for tissue culture or chicken egg-adapted vaccine strains but not for field strains of other serotypes. In this study, pregnant ewes (6 per group) were inoculated with either field or rescued strains of BTV-2 and BTV-8 in order to determine the ability of these viruses to cross the placental barrier. The field BTV-2 and BTV-8 strains was passaged once in Culicoides KC cells and once in mammalian cells. All virus inoculated sheep became infected and seroconverted against the different BTV strains used in this study. BTV RNA was detectable in the blood of all but two ewes for over 28 days but infectious virus could only be detected in the blood for a much shorter period. Interestingly, transplacental transmission of BTV-2 (both field and rescued strains) was demonstrated at high efficiency (6 out of 13 lambs born to BTV-2 infected ewes) while only 1 lamb of 12 born to BTV-8 infected ewes showed evidence of in utero infection. In addition, evidence for horizontal transmission of BTV-2 between ewes was observed. As expected, the parental BTV-2 and BTV-8 viruses and the viruses rescued by reverse genetics showed very similar properties to each other. This study showed, for the first time, that transplacental transmission of BTV-2, which had been minimally passaged in cell culture, can occur; hence such transmission might be more frequent than previously thought.