Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Usutu virus is back – not only in blackbirds but also in humans

13.10.2017

Usutu virus, a flavivirus of African origin, was first detected in Austria in 2001, when it caused a severe bird die-off, mainly of blackbirds. The virus was active in the eastern part of Austria until 2005. During 10 subsequent years no Usutu virus associated bird mortality was observed in Austria – contrary to neighboring Hungary. Last year Usutu virus was identified again in two blackbirds – and in 2017 already in sixteen songbirds. A research team of Vetmeduni Vienna investigated the virus strains involved. In another study Usutu virus was demonstrated in seven human blood donations from eastern Austria, suggesting that human infections seem to be more frequent than previously thought.

Between 2001 and 2005 the massive black bird mortality in eastern Austria received wide public attention. Usutu virus, the aetiological agent, belongs to the flavivirus family, together with tick-borne encephalitis-, West Nile- and Dengue viruses. Since then no Usutu virus associated bird mortality was observed in Austria, while in other European countries such as Hungary a small number of Usutu virus-positive wild birds was diagnosed in each year. The epidemiological situation changed significantly in 2016, when Usutu virus wild bird die-off was reported from various European countries including 12 cases from Hungary and two from Austria.


Usutu-viruses not just infect birds, but also humans in a higher number than previously thought.

Georg Mair/Vetmeduni Vienna

A team of researchers from the Vetmeduni Vienna investigated genetically the virus strains which circulated in Hungary since 2010 and in Austria in 2016. In 2014, the Austrian Red Cross, Blood Service for Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, initiated regular screening of all blood donated between 1 June and 30 November each year for West Nile virus by a nucleic acid test. Interestingly, one positive sample in 2016 and six blood donations in 2017 turned out to be infected by Usutu virus and not by West Nile virus.

Old and new viruses circulate in Austria and Hungary

„We were surprised to see after 10 years of absence last year the reemergence of Usutu virus in Austria. Also other European countries reported last year widespread Usutu virus activity”, says the principal investigator Norbert Nowotny from the Institute of Virology. “We therefore investigated the genetic set-up of the Austrian and Hungarian viruses in order to enhance our understanding which virus strains are currently active in the regions and from where they have been introduced“.

The viruses identified in Hungary between 2010 and 2015 were closely related to the „original“ virus strain that was responsible for the blackbird die-off in Austria from 2001 to 2005. However, the viruses found in 2016 in both countries turned out to be related to virus strains which circulated in Italy during 2009 and 2010. These two virus variants belong to two different European genetic lineages. “This demonstrates that various virus strains are exchanged between neighboring countries”, explains Nowotny.

Human Usutu virus infections are more prevalent than previously thought

Besides wild birds, humans can also be infected with Usutu virus through mosquito bites. Usually human Usutu virus infections are asymptomatic, occasionally they may result in fever and rash. Neurologic symptoms and severe courses of the disease are rare in humans, although critical illness was reported in immunosuppressed patients, e.g., in two cases in 2009 in Italy.

With increased Usutu virus activity in a region also the risk of human infections increases. Since West Nile virus, a well-known human pathogen, is endemic in the eastern part of Austria, all blood donations from that area have been tested for flavivirus nucleic acid since 2014. „Contrary to most other flavivirus infections Usutu is not considered a communicable disease.

However, the employed diagnostic test detects essentially all flaviviruses, including Usutu virus“, states Franz Allerberger from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). When retested with virus-specific assays, it turned out that seven blood donations were infected with Usutu virus and not with West Nile virus. None of the Usutu virus-positive blood donors reported clinical symptoms, and only one mentioned a stay abroad.

Testing donor blood prevents subsequent diseases

„Flavivirus-positive blood donations – both West Nile and Usutu virus positives – are discarded and consequently do not pose any risk to recipients of blood donations. However, there are a number of European countries, in which West Nile virus infections did not yet occur but in which Usutu virus circulates. In these countries blood donations may not be screened for flaviviruses.

On the other hand, blood recipients are frequently immunocompromised persons, in which an Usutu virus infection may result in severe disease. To increase awareness of this possibility was one of the main goals of our second study”, says Nowotny.

Service:
The article “Usutu virus, Austria and Hungary, 2010–2016“ by Tamás Bakonyi, Károly Erdélyi, René Brunthaler, Ádám Dán, Herbert Weissenböck und Norbert Nowotny was published in Emerging Microbes & Infections.
http://www.nature.com/emi/journal/v6/n10/full/emi201772a.html?foxtrotcallback=tr...

The article “Usutu virus infections among blood donors, Austria, July and August 2017 – Raising awareness for diagnostic challenges“ by Tamás Bakonyi, Christof Jungbauer, Stephan W. Aberle, Jolanta Kolodziejek, Katharina Dimmel, Karin Stiasny, Franz Allerberger and Norbert Nowotny was published in Eurosurveillance.
http://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.41.17-00644

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 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. The Vetmeduni Vienna plays in the global top league: in 2017, it occupies the excellent place 8 in the world-wide Shanghai University Ranking in the subject "Veterinary Science". http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Scientific Contact:
Norbert Nowotny
Institute of Virology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +971 52 205 4070
norbert.nowotny@vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Georg Mair
Science Communication / Corporate Communications
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1165
georg.mair@vetmeduni.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/press-releases-2017/...

Mag.rer.nat. Georg Mair | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Kidney tumor: Genetic trigger discovered
18.06.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
18.06.2018 | Imperial College London

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New ID pictures of conducting polymers discover a surprise ABBA fan

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

The car of the future – sleeper cars and travelling offices too?

18.06.2018 | Automotive Engineering

Scientists predict a new superhard material with unique properties

18.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>