Background: Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) is a pestivirus that affects cattle production worldwide and that can infect other ungulates such as cervids and even wild boar (Sus scrofa). It is believed that domestic livestock can become infected through contact with wild animals, though it is known that infection can spread among wild animals in the absence of contact with livestock. Little is known about the sharing of BVDV infection between wild and domestic animals in the same habitat, which is important for designing eradication campaigns and preventing outbreaks, especially on hunting estates with high animal densities. Results: We assessed the sharing of BVDV infections among hunted red deer, wild boar and cattle in south-central Spain. Sampled red deer (Cervus elaphus; n = 267) and wild boar (n = 52) were located on 19 hunting estates, and cattle (n = 180) were located on 18 nearby farms. We used ELISA kits for the serological screening, Taqman RT-PCR assay for the virus determination, and subsequent phylogenetic analysis for 17 RT-PCR positive sample amplicons. Fifty-two red deer (19.5 %) and 82 cattle (45.6 %) samples tested positive by ELISA. A high apparent prevalence (22.47 %) was obtained for red deer, while only five cattle farms tested positive by RT-PCR. Conversely, no wild boar tested positive by both ELISA or RT-PCR. Eleven red deer (4.1 %) tested positive by both ELISA and RT-PCR; these animals may have been sampled during the last phase of viremia, or they may represent previously exposed individuals infected by a different BVDV strain. The amplicons shared 92.7-100 % identity and fell within the BVDV subgroup 1b, although nine of these (from four red deer and five cattle pools) formed a separate branch. This suggests that there might be a common BVDV infecting both cattle and red deer. Higher red deer abundance was significantly associated with greater risk that extensively raised cattle would test positive for BVDV by ELISA. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that BVDV is circulating between cattle and red deer populations in proximity, but further work is required to determine whether they share the same strain(s). These results suggest the potential of BVDV to serve as a surveillance marker in these shared habitats. High seroprevalence of BVDV in red deer from our study area suggests that although BVDV infection is common, animals usually survive the infection. Further research is needed to verify and investigate the role of red deer as a BVDV reservoir.
Rodríguez-Prieto, V., Kukielka, D., Rivera-Arroyo, B., Martínez-López, B., de las Heras, A. I., Sánchez-Vizcaíno, J. M., & Vicente, J. (2016). Evidence of shared bovine viral diarrhea infections between red deer and extensively raised cattle in south-central Spain. BMC Veterinary Research, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-015-0630-3