Evaluation of hunter-harvested white-tailed deer for evidence of bovine viral diarrhea virus infection in Alabama

Brief Communications


Correspondence: 1Corresponding Author: Paul H. Walz, Departments of Clinical Sciences and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, 2050 JT Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital, Auburn, AL 36849-2900.

Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) is one of the most relevant pathogens affecting today’s cattle industries. Although great strides have been made in understanding this virus in cattle, little is known about the role of wildlife in the epidemiology of BVDV. While persistently infected cattle are the most important reservoir, free-ranging ungulates may become infected with BVDV as demonstrated by serosurveys and experimental infections. Therefore, free-ranging wildlife may maintain BVDV as the result of an independent cycle and may serve as a reservoir for the virus. Systematic studies on prevalence of BVDV-specific antibodies or frequency of persistent BVDV infection in North American wildlife are sparse, and no information is available from the southeastern United States. The objective of this study was to evaluate blood and skin samples from hunter-harvested white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for evidence of BVDV infection. Virus-neutralizing antibodies were detected in 2 of 165 serum samples. Skin biopsy immunohistochemistry (IHC) was performed on samples from 406 deer using a BVDV-specific monoclonal antibody (MAb) (15c5), and BVDV antigen was detected in one sample. A similar IHC staining pattern was obtained using a second BVDV MAb (3.12F1). Viral antigen distribution in the skin sample of this deer resembled that found in persistently infected cattle and in a previously described persistently infected white-tailed deer; thus, the deer was presumed to be persistently infected. Evidence of BVDV infection in free-ranging white-tailed deer should encourage further systematic investigation of the prevalence of BVDV in wildlife.

Key Words: Bovine viral diarrhea virus • immunohistochemistry • Odocoileus virginianus • seroprevalence • white-tailed deer



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