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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Mapping geographical areas at risk for tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) by analysing bulk tank milk from Swedish dairy cattle herds for the presence of TBE virus-specific antibodies

Blomqvist, Gunilla; Naslund, Katarina; Svensson, Linda; Beck, Cecile; Valarcher, Jean Francois


Background The vector-borne human viral zoonosis tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is of growing concern in Sweden. The area where TBE is considered endemic has expanded, with an increasing geographical distribution of Ixodes ricinus as the tick vector and a rising number of reported TBE cases in humans. Efforts to map TBE risk areas have been carried out by sentinel monitoring, mainly based on individual sampling and analysis of wild and domestic animals, as well as ticks, for tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). However, the interpretation of the geographical distribution has been hampered by the patchy and focal nature of TBEV occurrence. This study presents TBEV surveillance data based on antibody analysis of bulk tank milk collected from dairy herds located throughout Sweden before (May) and after (November) the vector season. A commercial TBEV antibody ELISA was modified and evaluated for use in this study. Results The initial comparative TBEV antibody analysis revealed a good correlation between milk and serum antibody levels from individually sampled cows. Also, the TBEV-antibody levels for the mean-herd serum showed good comparability with TBEV antibody levels from bulk tank milk, thus indicating good predictability of seroprevalence when analysing bulk tank milk from a herd. Analyses of bulk tank milk samples collected from 616 herds in May and 560 herds in November showed a geographical distribution of TBEV seropositive herds that was largely consistent with reported human TBE cases. A few TBEV-reactive herds were also found outside known locations of human TBE cases. Conclusion Serological examination of bulk tank milk from dairy cattle herds may be a useful sentinel surveillance method to identify geographical presence of TBEV. In contrast to individual sampling this method allows a large number of animals to be monitored. TBEV seropositive herds were mainly found in coastal areas of southern Sweden similar to human TBE cases. However, some antibody-reactive herds were found outside known TBE areas at the time of the study.


Antibody detection; Bulk tank milk; Sentinel dairy cattle herds; Tick-borne encephalitis virus

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2021, Volume: 63, number: 1, article number: 16
Publisher: BMC

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Clinical Science

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