Original Research

An investigation into the possibility of bluetongue virus transmission by transfer of infected ovine embryos

Estelle H. Venter, Truuske Gerdes, Isabel Wright, Johan Terblanche
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 78, No 1 | a17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v78i1.17 | © 2011 Estelle H. Venter, Truuske Gerdes, Isabel Wright, Johan Terblanche | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 September 2010 | Published: 21 February 2011

About the author(s)

Estelle H. Venter, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Truuske Gerdes, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Isabel Wright, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, South Africa
Johan Terblanche, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Bluetongue (BT), a disease that affects mainly sheep, causes economic losses owing to not only its deleterious effects on animals but also its associated impact on the restriction of movement of livestock and livestock germplasm. The causative agent, bluetongue virus (BTV), can occur in the semen of rams and bulls at the time of peak viraemia and be transferred to a developing foetus. The risk of the transmission of BTV by bovine embryos is negligible if the embryos are washed according to the International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS) protocol. Two experiments were undertaken to determine whether this holds for ovine embryos that had been exposed to BTV. Firstly, the oestrus cycles of 12 ewes were synchronised and the 59 embryos that were obtained were exposed in vitro to BTV-2 and BTV-4 at a dilution of 1 x 102.88 and 1 x 103.5 respectively. In the second experiment, embryos were recovered from sheep at the peak of viraemia. A total of 96 embryos were collected from BTV-infected sheep 21 days after infection. In both experiments half the embryos were washed and treated with trypsin according to the IETS protocol while the remaining embryos were neither washed nor treated. All were tested for the presence of BTV using cell culture techniques. The virus was detected after three passages in BHK-21 cells only in one wash bath in the first experiment and two unwashed embryos exposed to BTV-4 at a titre of 1 x 103.5. No embryos or uterine flush fluids obtained from viraemic donors used in the second experiment were positive for BTV after the standard washing procedure had been followed. The washing procedure of the IETS protocol can thus clear sheep embryos infected with BTV either in vitro or in vivo.


Bluetongue virus; embryos; Infection; transmission; washed


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