March 27, 2007

African horse sickness is one of the animal disease under study by Medreonet, an animal reovirus disease surveillance and study network in Europe.

Medronet is studying three diseases transmitted by Culicoides (small biting midges).

"One of these diseases has already hit Europe and the other two are a risk for Europe," says Guillaume Gerbier, a researcher with the CIRAD Epidemiology and Ecology of Animal Diseases Internal Research Unit and coordinator of the project.

"We are therefore keen to pool the experiences of research teams in the 17 participating countries and harmonise the control methods used against these diseases."

Surveillance of disease circulation (serological and virological analyses) is a priority. This is followed by surveillance of the vector insects (trapping and identification, since not all the vectors are known, although researchers say there are "suspect" European species). The next step will be to analyse the genome of the virus, sequence it and build groups of virus families so as to determine their origin. In fact, there are 24 bluetongue virus serotypes, and the disease serves as a model in studies of emerging diseases.

"Infection by one serotype does not protect against the other 23," says Guillaume Gerbier, "and to date, we have only recorded eight serotypes around the Mediterranean since the bluetongue epidemic of 1999".