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Vet Microbiol. 2013 Jul 26;165(1-2):160-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2012.12.043. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Experimental infection of Carrion crows (Corvus corone) with two European West Nile virus (WNV) strains.

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Operational Direction of Viral Diseases, Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Center (CODA-CERVA-VAR), 99 Groeselenberg, 1180 Brussels, Belgium.


West Nile virus (WNV) has become a wide-spread arbovirus in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin countries. This emerging zoonotic disease disseminated 13 years ago in North America where its impact on animal and public health has been considerable. Although American corvids have been the most reliable avian sentinels for WN surveillance in the United States, there is so far no data available about the susceptibility of their Western European counterparts to WNV. Clinical follow-up and serum, oral swabs and feathers viral RNA load monitoring was herein performed on wild-caught Carrion crows (Corvus corone) experimentally inoculated with two WNV strains, Is98 that was isolated from a stork in Israel where it elicited high rates of avian deaths in 1998, and Fr2000 which was only associated to sporadic equine cases in Camargue, France in 2000. Inoculated crows were sensitive to both WNV infections and, as expected from the available epidemiological data, Is98 induced a higher mortality rate (100% vs. 33%) and a quicker fatal outcome, with higher viral RNA loads detected in the serum, oral swabs and feathers than in the Fr2000 group. Therefore, Carrion crows should also be a target species for WNV surveillance in Western Europe, where reporting for abnormal mortalities could be completed by viral detection in the herein described avian matrices. These experimental findings also emphasize the peculiarity of the European situation where a large spectrum of WNV genetic and pathotypic variants have been so far isolated despite limited WN disease reports in wild birds.

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