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Home » Archive » 2013

TDK conference 2013

Reservoir species of the West Nile virus
Iván Lívia - year 5
SzIU, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Supervisor: Tamás Bakonyi DVM

Abstract:

The aim of this study was to identify the wild bird species maintaining the West Nile virus (WNV) in Hungary. The causative agent of the West Nile fever is a zoonotic RNA virus belonging to the Flavivirus genus. The virus has spread worldwide and has caused sporadic cases in Europe too. In Hungary, it has caused several outbreaks with central nervous system illness in wild birds, horses and human beings for the last six years.

The natural cycle of the virus involves wild birds as reservoirs and mosquitoes as vectors. Previously it has been assumed that WNV is introduced to Europe from time to time by migrating wild birds, but it is not able to subsist in the area. Genetic comparisons of WNV strains detected in Hungary, however, revealed that the same virus strain is circulating in the country since 2004.

In this study we have tested 1,023 wild birds, belonging to 79 species to determinate which species may play key roles in the maintenance of WNV in Hungary. We used competitive ELISA (serum samples) or RT-PCR (saliva and faecal samples, cadavers), depending on the type of the specimen. The majority of the positive birds belonged to the Accipitriformes and Strigiformes genera.

We have detected WNV RNA in 2011 in a dove (Columba livia) and a little owl (Athene noctua). Both birds were collected in the Hortobágy National Park. In 2012, we found the virus in two goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) stemming from Maglód, and in 2013 in a goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and a crow (Corvus cornix) sent from the Avian Hospital of Hortobágy.

Among the samples examined with competitive ELISA, we found anti-WNV antibodies in two sparrow-hawks (Accipiter nisus), a short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) four common buzzards (Buteo buteo), a western marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus), a common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), a European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and a barn owl (Tyto alba).

Because birds of prey were frequently positive for WNV, and developed central nervous illness, it is likely that certain prey birds (i.e. doves) could be the sources of direct infections.



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