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Open Access Research article

Bovine viral diarrhea virus in free-ranging wild ruminants in Switzerland: low prevalence of infection despite regular interactions with domestic livestock

Julien Casaubon1, Hans-Rudolf Vogt2, Hanspeter Stalder2, Corinne Hug2 and Marie-Pierre Ryser-Degiorgis1*

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health (FIWI), Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2 Institute of Veterinary Virology (IVV), Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

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Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:204  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-204

Published: 29 October 2012

Abstract

Background

In the frame of an eradication program for bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) in Swiss livestock, the question was raised whether free-ranging wildlife could threaten the success of this sanitary measure. Therefore, we conducted serological and virological investigations on BVD virus (BVDV) infections in the four indigenous wild ruminant species (roe deer, red deer, Alpine chamois and Alpine ibex) from 2009 to 2011, and gathered information on interactions between wild and domestic ruminants in an alpine environment by questionnaire survey.

Results

Thirty-two sera out of 1’877 (1.7%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-2.4) were seropositive for BVDV, and a BVDV1 sub genotype h virus was found in a seropositive chamois (0.05%, 95% CI 0.001-0.3). The seropositive animals originated from sub-alpine or alpine regions and significantly more seropositive red deer, chamois and ibex than roe deer were found. There were no statistically significant differences between sampling units, age classes, genders, and sampling years. The obtained prevalences were significantly lower than those documented in livestock, and most positive wild ruminants were found in proximity of domestic outbreaks. Additionally, BVDV seroprevalence in ibex was significantly lower than previously reported from Switzerland. The survey on interspecific interactions revealed that interactions expected to allow BVDV transmission, from physical contacts to non-simultaneous use of the same areas, regularly occur on pastures among all investigated ruminant species. Interactions involving cervids were more often observed with cattle than with small ruminants, chamois were observed with all three domestic species, and ibex interacted mostly with small ruminants. Interactions related to the use of anthropogenic food sources were frequently observed, especially between red deer and cattle in wintertime.

Conclusions

To our knowledge, this is the first report of BVDV RNA isolated from an Alpine chamois. Nevertheless, our results suggest that BVDV infections are only sporadic in Swiss wild ruminants, despite regular occurrence of interactions with potentially infected livestock. Overall, serological, virological and ethological data indicate that wildlife is currently an incidental spill-over host and not a reservoir for BVDV in Switzerland.

Keywords:
Bovine viral diarrhea virus; Epidemiology; Interactions; Livestock; Seroprevalence; Switzerland; Wild ruminants