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Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is a pestivirus that affects both cattle and sheep, causing an array of clinical signs, which include abortions and malformations in the offspring. Manufacturing of modified live virus (MLV) vaccines often includes the use of bovine-derived products, which implies a risk of contamination with viable BVDV. Recently, the circulation of a specific strain of BVDV 2b among Spanish sheep flocks, associated with outbreaks of abortions and malformations, and whose origin was not determined, has been observed. On February 2018, a MLV orf vaccine was applied to a 1,600 highly prolific sheep flock in the Northeast of Spain that included 550 pregnant ewes. In May 2018, during the lambing season, an unusual high rate (72.7%) of abortions, stillbirths, congenital malformations and neurological signs in the offspring was observed. It was estimated that about 1,000 lambs were lost. Three 1- to 3-day-old affected lambs and a sealed vial of the applied vaccine were studied. Lambs showed variable degrees of central nervous system malformations and presence of pestiviral antigen in the brain. Molecular studies demonstrated the presence of exactly the same BVDV 2b in the tissues of the three lambs and in the orf vaccine, thus pointing to a pestivirus contamination in the applied vaccine as the cause of the outbreak. Interestingly, sequencing at the 5'-untranslated region-(UTR) of the contaminating virus showed a complete match with the virus described in the previously reported outbreaks in Spain, thus indicating that the same contaminated vaccine could have also played a role in those cases. This communication provides a clear example of the effects of the application of this contaminated product in a sheep flock. The information presented here can be of interest in putative future cases of suspected circulation of this or other BVDV strains in ruminants. © 2020 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.


Javier Asín, Monika Hilbe, Ricardo de Miguel, Ana Rodríguez-Largo, Antonio Lanau, Alberto Akerman, Hanspeter Stalder, Matthias Schweizer, Lluís Luján. An outbreak of abortions, stillbirths and malformations in a Spanish sheep flock associated with a bovine viral diarrhoea virus 2-contaminated orf vaccine. Transboundary and emerging diseases. 2021 Mar;68(2):233-239

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PMID: 32386079

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