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Clin Diagn Virol. 1998 Jul 15;10(2-3):141-50.

Maternal recognition of foetal infection with bovine virus diarrhoea virus (BVDV)--the bovine pestivirus.

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Department of Pathology and Infectious Diseases, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, Herts, UK.



Pestiviruses are the veterinary viruses with genome homology to human hepatitis C virus (HCV). This group includes classical swine fever virus (CSFV), border disease virus of sheep (BDV) and bovine virus diarrhoea virus (BVDV). There are some similarities in the pathology of all three virus infections; in utero transmission to the foetus can cause early embryonic losses, severe congenital abnormalities and, particularly with BVDV, lifelong persistent infections. In situ hybridisation studies have demonstrated virus within reproductive tissues and the germinal centres of lymphoid tissue.


To examine the immune response of cattle throughout their pregnancy following infection with bovine pestivirus (BVDV) during the first trimester (before 110 days).


In two experimental studies, heifers were infected with BVDV before 98 days gestation. Their antibody response was monitored during the remainder of the pregnancy. In another study, the antibody response of pregnant cattle was monitored following a natural infection of BVDV on a farm. Calves of the dams from all these three studies were examined, following birth, for persistent BVDV infection.


It was observed that in dams carrying persistently infected foetuses, the immune response was markedly higher (13811 + 1273 U ELISA antibody) than in those dams carrying uninfected foetuses (2542+/-588 U ELISA antibody). These results were used to establish an antibody threshold (10000 U ELISA antibody) to predict the virus status of unborn calves during a farm outbreak of BVDV infection. The combined results of experimental and farm studies showed that in dams with low antibodies, 5/15 calves were infected whereas in dams with high antibodies, 17/19 calves were infected.


The predictive reliability of the assay appeared valuable but not secure. The ability of BVDV to infect the foetus with consequent maternal recognition, whilst remaining inaccessible to maternal immune exclusion, is a novel finding.

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