The friedrich loeffler institute for animal health (FLI) on the island of riems near greifswald reported on monday 160 cattle, 799 sheep and 41 goat farms where the pathogen was detected. A further increase is to be expected as lambs and calves continue to be born whose mothers became infected last year, FLI president thomas mettenleiter said on monday. All federal states affected except bremen.
A vaccine will not be available before 2013 because of the lengthy testing phase required for approval, even in trafficked animals, mettenleiter said. This deadline alone is a "very ambitious goal". Progress has been made in researching and diagnosing the pathogen, which causes severe deformities in foetuses and stillbirths during the gestation period. "A mass-market test for the detection of anticorps will probably be available in the near future."
The test developed by french researchers will make it much easier to prove the existence of the disease. "So far, we have only been able to detect the virus directly – either in the acute, approximately one-week disease phase in adult animals or in malformed offspring," said the virologist. The test will now make it possible to detect even formerly infected animals by means of the anticorpses produced.
The announced compulsory notification of the schmallenberg virus is to take effect on 30. The new law will be formally passed by the bundesrat on march. In practice, daily reports from countries and authorities are already being received by the FLI, according to a spokesman for the federal ministry of agriculture in berlin. Germany continues to push for an EU-wide mandatory reporting requirement. This should ensure closer monitoring and would also be the basis for possible compensation payments.
Belgian researchers recently succeeded in identifying three species of midge that transmit the schmallenberg virus. These are species that had also transmitted bluetongue disease. FLI scientists had previously presented high-resolution images of the pathogen, which is 13,000 times smaller than the head of a pin. This would allow a more precise analysis of the multiplication cycle of the pathogen in infected cells, and conclusions could be drawn about the spread of the pathogen in the trafficked animal and its transmission to the foetus, said mettenleiter.
According to the FLI, eight european countries are now affected by the pathogen, with germany being the most severely affected. The netherlands, belgium, great britain, france, italy, luxembourg and most recently spain have also reported traps.
Sheep farms report loss rates of up to 50 percent of newborn lambs, according to FLI. Cattle breeders complain of economic losses resulting primarily from the export restrictions now imposed. "The economic damage is severe," said hubert cramer of the working group of german cattle breeders in bonn. The damage resulting from the export ban on cattle semen and cattle cannot yet be quantified. Several countries have imposed import bans on cattle, goats and sheep from the countries concerned.
Russia, which is one of the biggest buyers of breeding animals of the deutsche holstein dairy breed, is going particularly far: moscow has also imposed a ban on imports of pigs from the european union. The ban should be lifted from 20. March on apply. From a scientific point of view, an import ban on pigs is not understandable, as they are not affected by the pathogen, mettenleiter said.
Should the schmallenberg virus infect animals on a massive scale again this year, farmers will hardly be able to protect their stock, according to the FLI’s assessment. The gestation period could be moved "out of the period of highest gnat activity" via insemination in cattle and littering in sheep, an FLI spokeswoman said. In addition, an insect repellent can provide limited protection against mosquito bites.