Presence of antibodies against tick-borne encephalitis virus in sheep in Tunisia, North Africa

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Background: Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEv) is a flavivirus that circulates in a complex cycle involving small mammals as amplifying hosts and ticks as vectors and reservoirs. The current study aimed to investigate the presence of TBEv in Tunisian sheep. A sample of 263 adult sheep were selected from 6 localities where Ixodes ricinus is well established. Sera were screened using ELISA for TBEv IgG detection, then the doubtful and positive sera were tested by the seroneutralisation test (SNT) and screened for West Nile Virus (WNv) IgG for cross-reaction assessment. Results: The ELISA for TBEv IgG detected one positive serum and 17 borderlines. The SNT showed one positive serum among the 18 tested, giving an overall antibody prevalence of 0.38% (95% CI = 0.07–2.12%). All but one serum tested negative to WNv ELISA. None of the sheep farmers reported neurological signs among sheep or humans in their households. Conclusions: The results may indicate the circulation of TBEv for the first time in Tunisia and in North Africa. Further studies based on either virus isolation or RNA detection, are needed to confirm the presence of TBEv in North Africa.




Khamassi Khbou, M., Romdhane, R., Foughali, A. A., Sassi, L., Suin, V., Rekik, M., & Benzarti, M. (2020). Presence of antibodies against tick-borne encephalitis virus in sheep in Tunisia, North Africa. BMC Veterinary Research, 16(1).

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