Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The taming of the shrew - The bicoloured shrew is a health risk for horses

11.04.2014

The bicoloured shrew is a protected species in Central Europe, but these furry insect-eaters have a dark secret. Researchers from the Vetmeduni Vienna have discovered that bicoloured shrews carry the Borna virus. Infection with this virus causes fatal encephalitis in horses. The mechanisms of transmission had until now been unclear, but we now know more about one route - from bicoloured shrews to hosts. The study was published recently in the journal PLOS ONE.

The Borna disease – named after the German city of Borna, which saw a cluster of cases over 100 years ago – mainly affects horses and sheep, and in rare cases cattle and rabbits too. A single case of an infected dog has been reported. Affected horses seclude themselves from the herd and suffer from depression and general disorientation. Ultimately, this incurable infection is fatal.

Borna virus detected in bicoloured shrews

Researchers have long been in the dark concerning the transmission mechanism of the Borna virus. The bicoloured shrew was one suspect, but definitive proof was missing. Norbert Nowotny and Jolanta Kolodziejek from the Institute of Virology and Herbert Weissenböck from the Institute of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine carried out a study on 107 shrews from the German region of Saxony-Anhalt together with a colleague from Germany. All the shrews were found dead, and 58 of them were bicoloured shrews, 14 of which carried the Borna virus. No Borna viruses were detected in the other shrew species.

Possible transmission mechanism

By examining tissue samples, it was discovered that the shrews carried significant amounts of virus in almost all their organs, including the mucosae of the oral cavity, the respiratory tract and the skin. This meant that dead skin scales from these animals might be infectious.
“We were surprised to discover significant amounts of viruses in the shrews’ skin. Usually, viruses are found deeper inside a transmitting organism and are excreted in urine and faeces. In horses, the virus first affects the olfactory brain area, so we assume that infection occurs via the respiratory tract rather than the digestive tract,” explains co-author and pathologist Weissenböck.

Shrews do not migrate

The bicoloured shrew (Crocidura leucodon) lives exclusively in Central Europe, the region where the Borna disease occurs. This area is mostly within Germany, but also includes the eastern part of Switzerland and Vorarlberg in western Austria. Virologist Nowotny explains: “The distribution of bicoloured shrews remains fairly constant because the animals stay within their habitats. They do not like to move around.” In fact, the number of incidents of Borna disease has actually declined in the last few years. There are currently about 100 cases per year.

Genetics reveals transmission mechanism

A genetic analysis of viruses taken from bicoloured shrews and horses provides further proof that the bicoloured shrew acts as a ‘pathogen reservoir’. The viral strains found in the shrews correspond exactly with the strains from sick horses in the same region. This supports the assumption that the virus sub-types develop in a particular region over the course of centuries in bicoloured shrews and do not generally spread beyond that area. These sub types can then be transmitted to horses.

Borna disease not contagious

The transmission mechanism of the Borna disease is remarkable in that the virus is not transmitted from one infected animal to another, so an intermediate host is needed – the bicoloured shrew. The disease is therefore not directly contagious. This is why it never affects whole herds, but individuals. “The best way to avoid transmission is to keep shrews away from the stables. Normal hygiene measures should be sufficient”, says study leader Nowotny.

The article “The bicolored white-toothed shrew Crocidura leucodon (HERMANN 1780) is an indigenous host of mammalian Borna disease virus” by Ralf Dürrwald, Jolanta Kolodziejek, Herbert Weissenböck and Norbert Nowotny was published on the 3rd of April in the Journal PLOS ONE. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0093659

 
About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna is the only academic and research institution in Austria that focuses on the veterinary sciences. About 1,200 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Herbert Weissenböck
Institute of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 20577-2418
herbert.weissenboeck@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Heike Hochhauser
Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1151
heike.hochhauser@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2014/...

Heike Hochhauser | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Borna disease Medicine Pathology Sheep Veterinary Veterinary Medicine horses skin strains viruses

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Faster detection of pathogens in the lungs
24.06.2016 | Universität Zürich

nachricht How yeast cells regulate their fat balance
23.06.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First experimental quantum simulation of particle physics phenomena

Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...

Im Focus: Is There Life On Mars?

Survivalist back from Space - 18 months on the outer skin of the ISS

A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...

Im Focus: CWRU physicists deploy magnetic vortex to control electron spin

Potential technology for quantum computing, keener sensors

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a way to swiftly and precisely control electron spins at room temperature.

Im Focus: Physicists measured something new in the radioactive decay of neutrons

The experiment inspired theorists; future ones could reveal new physics

A physics experiment performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has enhanced scientists' understanding of how free neutrons decay...

Im Focus: Discovery of gold nanocluster 'double' hints at other shape changing particles

New analysis approach brings two unique atomic structures into focus

Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ERES 2016: The largest conference in the European real estate industry

09.06.2016 | Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool'

24.06.2016 | Materials Sciences

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler'

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>