Department of Life Sciences, College of Life Sciences and Bioengineering, Incheon National University, Academy-ro 119, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, 22012, Republic of Korea; Emerging & Exotic Diseases Research Laboratory, Foreign Animal Diseases Division, National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, Anyang-ro 175, Manan-gu, Anyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, 14089, Republic of Korea. Electronic address: [Email]
Bluetongue, which is caused by bluetongue virus (BTV), is a vector-borne viral disease that affects wild and domestic ruminants. Trade restrictions can have a devastating impact in areas where BTV is endemic, regardless of the incidence of clinical disease. Currently, little is known about the prevalence of BTV infection in the Republic of Korea (ROK), and limited data on the BTV situation in the ROK are available. In this study, an epidemiological survey of BTV infection in farmed and free-ranging cervids from the ROK was conducted by a countrywide retrospective cross-sectional study. In total, BTV infection was widespread in the ROK, as 74 of 790 (9.4%, 95% confidence interval = 7.5-11.6%) cervid sera samples collected from 318 herds contained antibodies to BTV. Additionally, 42 herds evaluated in this study contained BTV seropositive cervids (13.2%). Serological evidence of bluetongue virus infection was observed in 17 of 158 free-ranging cervid animals, which accounts for the prevalence rate of approximately 10.8% (17/158; 95% CI = 6.8-16.6). Neutralizing antibodies to BTV-1, -2, -4, -7, and -15 serotypes were identified and RNAs of the BTV-1, -7, and -15 serotypes were detected, indicating that BTV was circulating in the cervids in ROK. These results suggest that cervids were actively exposed to BTV in the ROK and these species might serve as an important reservoir for the transmission of BTV. This is the first report on the evidence of circulating antibodies against BTV and serotype distribution in cervids in the ROK.