Since 1999, Bluetongue (BT) has been spreading from the southern and eastern Mediterranean towards northern Europe. Between 2000 and 2004, foci were also observed in Corsica. Vast vaccination campaigns subsequently overcame the disease, which is transmitted to sheep by biting midges of the genus Culicoides.
As Emmanuel Camus, Director of CIRAD's Animal Production and Veterinary Medicine Department, explains: "global warming is favouring the arrival of diseases previously seen as exotic". He adds "we also need to cope with the appearance of different strains serotypes) of the Bluetongue vieus, which means using specific vaccines".
CIRAD is the national reference laboratory for the disease, and will be analysing samples taken by veterinary services from sheep and cattle on 60 farms in six of the départements most concerned (Moselle, Meurthe et Moselle, Meuse, Ardennes, Aisne and Nord), and will be trapping vector insects in those areas.
It is also carrying out research, primarily on:
- molecular characterization of vector insects: this will enable the precise identification of species in terms of morphologically indistinguishable groups or complexes and characterization of their reproduction sites, since it is impossible to identify species at the larval stage;
- the development of a new recombinant vaccine effective on all serotypes (in partnership with AFSSA and INRA);
- assessing Bluetongue serological diagnostic kits;
- spatial modelling of the zones propitious to vectors and dynamic modelling of viral infection so as to pinpoint the zones to be monitored in continental France. Several models are currently being developed and evaluated;
- application of the risk evaluation methodology concerning introduction of the virus into disease-free zones through commercial animal movements.
CIRAD is also coordinator of the European Med_Reo_Net project on Bluetongue and another disease caused by a similar virus: African horse sickness. The project, which involves 17 countries, will be launched in Autumn 2006.* AFSSA , Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments EID-Méditerranée, Entente interdépartementale pour la démoustification du littoral méditerranéen
ULP, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg
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