Demonstration of Usutu virus antibodies in horses, Croatia.

Research paper by Ljubo L Barbic, Tatjana T Vilibic-Cavlek, Eddy E Listes, Vladimir V Stevanovic, Ira I Gjenero-Margan, Suncanica S Ljubin-Sternak, Iva I Pem-Novosel, Irena I Listes, Gordana G Mlinaric-Galinovic, Annapia A Di Gennaro, Giovanni G Savini

Indexed on: 03 Jul '13Published on: 03 Jul '13Published in: Vector borne and zoonotic diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.)


We report the first serological evidence of Usutu virus (USUV) infection in horses in Croatia. During 2011, 1380 horse serum samples from healthy animals were collected from six northern Croatian counties. All samples were first screened for West Nile virus (WNV) immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Sixty-nine WNV ELISA-reactive samples were further tested for WNV antibodies by a virus neutralization assay (VN assay) and plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT), and USUV by a VN assay and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) antibodies by PRNT. During the same period, 306 human serum samples from patients coming for routine testing with no symptoms of acute febrile disease were tested for USUV IgG using ELISA. Reactive samples were tested for both USUV and WNV using a VN assay. USUV-specific neutralizing antibodies were detected in two of 69 WNV ELISA-reactive horse serum samples. Seropositive animals were found in two different regions of Croatia. One additional sample showed specific WNV-neutralizing antibodies that cross-neutralized USUV. Only one human sample (0.3%) was reactive to USUV antibodies in an ELISA test. In a confirmatory test, WNV-neutralizing antibodies were detected, indicating cross-reactive antibodies with USUV in ELISA. The exposure to USUV was documented in two WNV ELISA-reactive horses at distant locations. These results indicate the presence of USUV in northern Croatia.