Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

New and confirmed foci of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) in Northern Germany determined by TBEV detection in ticks

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a tick-transmitted, virus-induced neurological disease with potentially fatal outcomes in humans and animals. Virus transmission takes places in so-called tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) microfoci, which constitute small areas of sustained virus circulation. In southern Germany, TBEV has been endemic for decades; however, a northward expansion of risk areas, based on disease incidence in the human population, has been observed in recent years. The present study investigated TBEV occurrence in questing ticks at eight locations in the federal state of Lower Saxony, northwestern Germany, chosen due to reported associations with human TBE cases (N = 4) or previous virus detection (N = 4). A total of 20,056 ticks were collected in 2020 and 2021 and tested for TBEV RNA in pools of ten nymphs or five adults by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-qPCR). Positive results were confirmed by RT amplification of the viral E gene. In total, 18 pools from five different sampling locations were positive for TBEV RNA. One previously unknown transmission focus was detected, while ongoing virus circulation was confirmed at the four further locations. Phylogenetic analysis showed that two different virus strains with different origins circulate in the locations identified as natural foci.

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