Serologic evidence of West Nile virus and Usutu virus infections in Eurasian coots in the Netherlands

Lim, S.M.; Geervliet, M.; Verhagen, J.H.; Müskens, G.J.D.M.; Majoor, F.A.; Osterhaus, Albert D.M.E.; Martina, Byron E.


West Nile virus (WNV) and Usutu virus (USUV) are arboviruses that are maintained in enzootic transmission cycles between mosquitoes and birds and are occasionally transmitted to mammals. As arboviruses are currently expanding their geographic range and emerging in often unpredictable locations, surveillance is considered an important element of preparedness. To determine whether sera collected from resident and migratory birds in the Netherlands as part of avian influenza surveillance would also represent an effective source for proactive arbovirus surveillance, a random selection of such sera was screened for WNV antibodies using a commercial ELISA. In addition, sera of jackdaws and carrion crows captured for previous experimental infection studies were added to the selection. Of the 265 screened serum samples, 27 were found to be WNV-antibody-positive, and subsequent cross-neutralization experiments using WNV and USUV confirmed that five serum samples were positive for only WNV-neutralizing antibodies and seven for only USUV. The positive birds consisted of four Eurasian coots (Fulica atra) and one carrion crow (Corvus corone) for WNV, of which the latter may suggest local presence of the virus, and only Eurasian coots for USUV. As a result, the screening of a small selection of serum samples originally collected for avian influenza surveillance demonstrated a seroprevalence of 1.6% for WNV and 2.8% for USUV, suggesting that this sustained infrastructure could serve as a useful source for future surveillance of arboviruses such as WNV and USUV in the Netherlands.