Bluetongue (BT) is a disease in ruminants caused by an Orbivirus that is transmitted by midges. There are at least 24 serotypes of Bluetongue virus (BTV). Wageningen Bioveterinary Research conducts research on this disease.


Infected midges naturally infect domestic and wild ruminants (for example, sheep, cattle, goats and deer) and camelids (such as the llama and alpaca) by bites during feeding. Cattle show higher and longer viraemia than sheep, but the disease is seen more frequently and more severe in sheep (depending on the serotype of BTV).

Bluetongue does not affect humans so there are no public health implications.

Inflammation around the mouth

The disease is characterized by inflammation of the mucus membranes around the mouth and nose, this inflammation causes the rarely seen 'blue tongue' that gives the disease its name.

Spread of Bluetongue

In Europe, the spread of Bluetongue virus was formerly associated to the presence of Culicoides imicola. In 2006 it became clear that BTV could also be spread by endemic species of Culicoides in Northern parts of Europe.

Restricted zones in Europe where different bluetongue virus serotypes are circulating (27 March 2019, source: OIE)
Restricted zones in Europe where different bluetongue virus serotypes are circulating (27 March 2019, source: OIE)







Sok, J., Hogeveen, H., Elbers, A.R.W., Oude Lansink, A. 2016. Using farmers' attitude and social pressures to designing voluntary Bluetongue vaccination strategies. Prev. Vet. Med. 133: 114-119. WOT-01-001-004

Piet A. van Rijn, Sandra G. P. van de Water, Mieke A. Maris-Veldhuis, and René G. P. van Gennip. 2016. Experimental infection of small ruminants with bluetongue virus expressing ToggenburgOrbivirus proteins. Vet. Microbiol. 192: 145-151. WOT-01-003-015 en WOT-01-003-054,  doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2016.07.013

Piet A. van Rijn, Sandra G. P. van de Water, Femke Feenstra, and René G. P. van Gennip. 2016. Requirements for reverse genetics of bluetongue virus (BTV) and African horsesickness virus (AHSV). Virol. J. 13: 119. Doi 10.1186/s12985-016-0574-7

Drolet, B. S., Reister-Hendricks, L. M., Podell, B. K., Breitenbach, J. E., McVey, D. S., Rijn, P. A., Bowen, R. A. 2016. European Bluetongue Serotype 8: Disease Threat Assessment for US Sheep. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 16: 400-407. Doi 10.1089/vbz.2015.1924. WOT-01-003-015.

Drolet BS, Reister LM, Lehiy CJ, van Rijn PA and Bowen RA 2016. Effect of Culicoides sonorensis salivary proteins on clinical disease outcome in experimental bluetongue virus serotype 8 infection of Dorset sheep. Vet. Italiana 51(4): 379-384. DOI: 10.12834/VetIt.496.2398.1

Feenstra, F., van Gennip, R. G., Schreuder, M., van Rijn, P. A. 2016. Balance of RNA sequence requirement and NS3/NS3a expression of segment 10 of Orbiviruses. J. Gen. Virol. 97: 411-421. WOT-01-003-051 

van der Sluijs, M. T., de Smit, A. J., Moormann, R. J. 2016. Vector independent transmission of the vector-borne bluetongue virus. Crit. Rev. Microbiol. 42: 57-64.

Dorea, F., Elbers, A.R.W., Hendrikx, P., Enoe, C., Kirkeby, C., Hoinville, L., Lindberg, A. 2016. Vector-borne disease surveillance in livestock populations: a critical  review of literature recommendations and implemented surveillance (BTV-8) in five European countries. Prev. Vet. Med. 125: 1-9. WOT-01-001-013 (CoVetLab).

Barbara S. Drolet, Lindsey M. Reister, Christopher J. Lehiy, Piet A. van Rijn and Richard A. Bowen. (2016). Effect of Culicoides sonorensis salivary proteins on clinical disease outcome in experimental bluetongue virus serotype 8 infection of Dorset sheep. Vet. Italiana 51(4):379-384. doi. 10.12834/VetIt.496.2398.1.


Tacken, M. G., Daus, F. J., Feenstra, F., van Gennip, R. G., van Rijn, P. A. 2015. Development of a competitive ELISA for NS3 antibodies as DIVA test accompanying the novel Disabled Infectious Single Animal (DISA) vaccine for bluetongue. Vaccine 33: 5539-5545. WOT-01-003-051 en KB-12-005.01-012

Feenstra, F., Drolet, B. S., Boonstra, J., van Rijn, P. A. 2015. Non-structural protein NS3/NS3a is required for propagation of bluetongue virus in Culicoides sonorensis. Parasit. Vectors 8: 476.

Najate Ftaich, Claire Ciancia, Cyril Viarouge, Gerald Barry, Maxime Ratinier, Marc Bailly-Bechet, Piet A. van Rijn, Emmanuel Breard, Damien Vitour, Stephan Zientara, Massimo Palmarini, Christophe Terzian, Frédérick Arnaud. 2015. Turnover rate of NS3 proteins modulates bluetongue virus replication kinetics in a host-specific manner. J. Virol. 89: 10467-10481.

Feenstra, F., Pap, J.S., van Rijn, P.A. 2015. Application of bluetongue Disabled Infectious Single Animal (DISA) vaccine for different serotypes by VP2 exchange or incorporation of chimeric VP2. Vaccine 33: 812-818.

Gethmann, J., Zilow, V., Probst, C., Elbers, A.R.W., Conraths, F.J. 2015. Why German farmers have their animals vaccinated against Bluetongue virus serotype 8: Results of a questionnaire survey. Vaccine 33: 214-221. WOT-01-001-004


Femke Feenstra, Mieke Maris-Veldhuis, Franz J. Daus, Mirriam G.J. Tacken, Rob J.M. Moormann, René G.P. van Gennip, Piet A. van Rijn. 2014. VP2-serotyped live-attenuated bluetongue virus without NS3/NS3a expression provides serotype-specific protection and enables DIVA. Vaccine 32: 7108-7114.

Boender, G.J., Hagenaars, T.J., Elbers, A.R.W., Gethmann, J.M., Meroc, E., Guis, H., de Koeijer, A.A. 2014. Confirmation of spatial patterns and temperature effects in Bluetongue virus serotype-8 transmission in NW-Europe from the 2007 reported case data. Vet. Res. 45: 79.

Caporale, M., di Gialenorado, L., Janowicz, A., Wilkie, G., Shaw, A., Savini, G., van Rijn, P.A., Mertens, P., di Ventura, M. 2014. Virus and host factors affecting the clinical outcome of bluetongue virus infection. J. Virol. 88: 10399-10411.

Sok J, Hogeveen H, Elbers ARW, Velthuis AGJ, Oude Lansink AGJM. 2014. Expected utility of voluntary vaccination in the middle of an emergent Bluetongue virus serotype 8 epidemic: a decision analysis parameterized for Dutch circumstances. Prev. Vet. Med. 115: 75-87.

Scolamacchia F, van den Broek J, Meiswinkel R, Heesterbeek JAP, Elbers ARW. 2014. Principal climatic and edaphic determinants of Culicoides biting midge abundance during the 2007-2008 bluetongue epidemic in the Netherlands, based on OVI light trap data. Med. Vet. Entomol. 28: 143-155. WOT-01-003-040 en KB-12-005.01-014

Coetzee, P., Van Vuuren, M., Stokstad, M., Myrmel, M., van Gennip, R. G., van Rijn, P. A., Venter, E. H. 2014. Viral replication kinetics and in vitro cytopathogenicity of parental and reassortant strains of bluetongue virus serotype 1, 6 and 8. Vet. Microbiol. 171: 53-65.

Koenraadt, C.J.M., Balenghien, T.,Carpenter, S., Duchene, E., Elbers, A.R.W., Fife, M., Garros, C., Ibanez-Justicia, A., Kampen, H., Kormelink, R.J.M., Losson, B., van der Poel, W.H.M., De Regge, N., van Rijn, P.A., Sanders, C., Schaffner, F., Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, M., Takken, W., Werner, D., Seelig, F. 2014. Bluetongue, Schmallenberg – what is next ? Culicoides-borne viral diseases in the 21st century. BMC Vet. Res. 10: 77.

Femke Feenstra, René G. P. van Gennip, Sandra G. P. van de Water, Piet A. van Rijn. 2014. RNA elements in open reading frames of the Bluetongue virus genome are essential for virus replication. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92377. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092377.

van Gennip, H.G.P., van de Water, S.G.P., and van Rijn, P.A. 2014. Bluetongue virus non-structural protein NS3/NS3a is not essential for virus replication. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85788. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085788.

Meiswinkel R, Scolamacchia F, Dik M, Mudde J, Dijkstra E, van der Ven IJK, Elbers ARW, 2014. The Mondrian Matrix: Culicoides prevalence and seasonal abundance during the 2006-2008 epizootic of bluetongue in the Netherlands. Med. Vet. Entomol. 28: 10-20. WOT-01-003-040 en KB-12-005.01-014


Mirjam T. W. van der Sluijs, Dianne P. H. Schroer-Joosten, Aicha Fid-Fourkour, Mieke P. Vrijenhoek, Isolde Debyser, Véronique Moulin, Rob J. M. Moormann, Abraham J. de Smit. 2013. Transplacental Transmission of Bluetongue Virus Serotype 1 and Serotype 8 in Sheep: Virological and Pathological Findings. PloS ONE 8(12): e81429. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081429.

van Rijn, P.A., van Water, S.G.P., van Gennip, H.G.P. 2013. Bluetonguevirus with mutated genome segment 10 to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals: A genetic DIVA approach. Vaccine 31: 5005-5008. WOT-01-003-051 en KB-12-005.01-012

Barbara S. Drolet, Lindsey M. Reister, James O. Mecham, William C. Wilson, Pauline Nol, Kurt C. Vercauteren, Piet A. van Rijn, Richard A. Bowen. 2013. Experimental infection of white-tailed deer with bluetongue virus serotype 8. Vet. Microbiol. 166: 347-355.

Cristina Celma, Mark Boyce, Piet van Rijn, Michael Eschbaumer, Kerstin Wernike, Bernd Hoffmann, Martin Beer, Andy Haegeman, Kris De Clercq, and Polly Roy. 2013. Rapid generation of replication-deficient monovalent and multivalent vaccines for bluetongue virus: protection against virulent virus challenge in cattle and sheep. J. Virol. 87: 9856-9864. doi:10.1128/M01514-13.

M.T.W. van der Sluijs, D.P.H. Schroer-Joosten, A. Fid-Fourkour, M. Smit, M.P. Vrijenhoek, V. Moulin, A.J. de Smit, R.J.M. Moormann. 2013. Transplacental transmission of BTV-8 in sheep: BTV viraemia, antibody responses and vaccine efficacy in lambs infected in utero. Vaccine 31: 3726-3731.

Mardulyn, P., Goffredo, M., Conte, A., Hendrickx, G., Meiswinkel, R., Balenghien, T., Sghaier, S., Lohr, Y., Gilbert, M. 2013. Climate change and the spread of vector-borne diseases: using approximate Bayesian computation to compare invasion scenarios for the bluetongue virus vector Culicoides imicola in Italy. Molec. Ecol. 22: 2456-2466.


René G. P. van Gennip, Sandra G. P. van de Water, Mieke Maris-Veldhuis, Piet A. van Rijn. 2012. Bluetongue Viruses Based on Modified-Live Vaccine Serotype 6 with Exchanged Outer Shell Proteins Confer Full Protection in Sheep against Virulent BTV8. PLoS ONE

Piet A. van Rijn, Yvon Geurts, Arco N. van der Spek, Daniel Veldman, René G.P. van Gennip. 2012. Bluetongue virus serotype 6 in Europe in 2008 – Emergence and disappearance of an unexpected non-virulent BTV. Vet. Microbiol. 158: 23-32.

M.T.W. van der Sluijs, D.P.H. Schroer-Joosten, A. Fid-Fourkour, M.P. Vrijenhoek, I. Debyser, D.A. Gregg, D.M. Dufe, V. Moulin, R.J.M. Moormann, A.J. de Smit. 2012. Effect of vaccination with an inactivated vaccine on transplacental transmission of BTV-8 in mid term pregnant ewes and heifers. Vaccine 30: 647-655.

Piet A. van Rijn, René G. Heutink, Jan Boonstra, Hans A. Kramps, and René G. P. van Gennip. 2012. Sustained high throughput polymerase chain rection diagnostics during the European epidemic of Bluetongue serotype 8. J. Vet. Diagn. Invest. 24: 469-478.

van Gennip, H.G.P., van de Water, S.G.P, Potgieter, C.A., Wright, I.M., Veldman, D., van Rijn, P.A. 2012. Rescue of recent virulent and avirulent field strains of Bluetongue virus by reverse genetics. PLos One 7: e30540. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone0030540


De Koeijer, A.A., Boender, G.J., Nodelijk, G., Staubach, C., Meroc, E., Elbers, A.R.W. 2011. Quantitative analysis of transmission parameters for bluetongue virus serotype 8 in Western Europe in 2006. Vet. Res. 42: 53.

M. van der Sluijs, M. Timmermans, V. Moulin, C. Vonk Noordegraaf, M. Vrijenhoek, I. Debyser, A.J. de Smit, R. Moormann. 2011. Transplacental transmission of Bluetongue virus serotype 8 in ewes in early and mid gestation. Vet. Microbiol. 149: 113-125.


Velthuis, A.G.J., Mourits, M.C.M. , Saatkamp, H.W., de Koeijer, A.A., Elbers, A.R.W. Financial evaluation of different vaccination strategies for controlling the Bluetongue Virus Serotype 8 epidemic in the Netherlands in 2008. PLosOne 6(5): e19612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019612

Mars M.H., van Maanen C., Vellema P., Kramps J.A. and van Rijn P.A. Evaluation of an indirect ELISA for detection of antibodies in bulk milk against bluetongue virus infections in the Netherlands. Veterinary Microbiology 146, 209-214, 2010

Bouwknegt, C., van Rijn, P.A., Schipper, J.J., Hölzel, D., Boonstra, J., Nijhof, A.M., van Rooij, E.M., Jongejan, F. Potential role of ticks as vector of bluetongue virus. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 2010; 52: 183-192. (doi: 10.1007/s10493-010-9359-7).

Santman-Berends, I.M.G.A., Hage, J.J., van Rijn, P.A., Stegeman, J.A., van Schaik, G. Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) reduces fertility of Dutch dairy cattle and is vertically transmitted to offspring. Theriogenology 2010; 74: 1377-84.

A.R.W. Elbers, A.A. de Koeijer, F. Scolamacchia, and P.A. van Rijn. (2010). Questionnaire survey about the motives of commercial livestock farmers and hobby holders to vaccinate their animals against Bluetongue virus serotype 8 in 2008–2009 in the Netherlands. Vaccine 28, 2473-2481.

I.M.G.A. Santman-Berends, L. van Wuijckhuise, P. Vellema, and P.A. van Rijn. 2010). Vertical transmission of bluetongue virus serotype 8 virus in Dutch dairy herds in 2007. Vet. Microbiol 141, 31-35.

Sushila Maan, Narender S. Maan, Piet A. van Rijn, René G.P. van Gennip, Anna Saunders, Isabel M. Wright, Carrie Batten, Bernd Hoffman, Chris Oura Abraham. C. Potgieter, Kyriaki Nomikou, and Peter P.C. Mertens. (2010). Full genome characterization of bluetongue virus serotype 6 from the Netherlands 2008 and comparison to other field and vaccine strains.PLos One 2010; 5(4): e10323.

van Gennip RG, Veldman D, van de Water SG, van Rijn PA. 2010. Genetic modification of Bluetongue virus by uptake of "synthetic" genome segments. Virol J. 2010 Oct 7;7:261

C.A. Batten, P.A. van Rijn, and C.A.L. Oura. (2010). Detection of the European ‘field’ strain of bluetongue virus serotype 6 by real-time RT-PCR. Vet. Microbiol. 141, 186–188.

A.G.J. Velthuis, H.W. Saatkamp, M.C.M. Mourits, A.A. de Koeijer, A.R.W. Elbers. Financial consequences of the Dutch bluetongue serotype 8 epidemics of 2006 and 2007. Prev. Vet. Med 93: 294-304 (2010).


N.A. Hartemink, B.V. Purse, R. Meiswinkel, H.E. Brown, A. de Koeijer, A.R.W. Elbers, G.-J. Boender, D.J. Rogers and J.A.P. Heesterbeek. Mapping the basic reproduction number (R0) for vector-borne diseases: A case study on bluetongue virus. Epidemics 1(3): 153-161 (2009)

Armin R W Elbers, Arco N van der Spek, Piet A van Rijn. (2009). Epidemiologic characteristics of bluetongue virus serotype 8 laboratory-confirmed outbreaks in the Netherlands in 2007 and a comparison with the situation in 2006. Prev. Vet. Medicin. 92, 1-8.

B. Makoschey, J. Maclachlan, L. v. Wuijckhuise, N. Kirschvink, F. dal Pozzo, H. Petit, C.Kaandorp-Huber, P. van Rijn, E. Sellal, C. Oura, F. Boinas, S. Cavirani, K. de Clercq, J. Lucientes, C. Posthumus Meijjes, S. Zientara, G. Meyerand E. Thiry. (2009). Bluetongue Control in Europe– New Challenges and Achievements. Berl. Münch. Tierärztl. Wochenschr. 122, 320-324.

W. Wouda, N.H.M.T. Peperkamp, M.P.H.M. Roumen, J. Muskens, P.A. van Rijn, P. Vellema. (2009). Epizootic congenital hydranencephaly and abortion in cattle due to bluetongue virus serotype 8 in the Netherlands. Tijdschrift voor Diergeneeskunde 134, 422-427.


Armin RW Elbers, Johan Popma, Sandra Oosterwolde, Piet A van Rijn, Piet Vellema, Eugène MA van Rooij (2008). A cross-sectional study to determine the seroprevalence of Bluetongue virus serotype 8 in sheep and goats in 2006 and 2007 in the Netherlands. BMC Veterinary Research 33, 10.

Makoschey, B., Beer, M., Zientara, S., Haubrugge, E., Rinaldi, L., Dercksen, D., Milleman, Y., van Rijn, P., de Clercq, K., Oura, C., Saegerman, C., Domingo, M. Sanchez-Vinzciano, JM., Melhorn, H., Tamba, M., Thiry, E. (2008). Bluetongue control- A new challenge for Europe. Berl. Münch. Tierärztl. Wochenschr. 121, 306-313.

Kramps, J.A., van Maanen C., Mars M.H., Popma J.K., and van Rijn, P.A. (2008). Validation of a commercial ELISA kit for detection of antibodies to bluetongue virus in individual milk samples of Dutch dairy cows. Vet. Microbiol., 130, 80-87.

Elbers, A.R.W., Backx, A., Ekker, H.M., van der Spek, A.N., and van Rijn, P.A. (2008). Performance of clinical signs of clinical signs to detect Bluetongue virus serotype 8 outbreaks in cattle and sheep during the 2006-epidemic in the Netherlands. Vet. Microbiol., 129,156-162.

Sushila Maan, Narender S. Maan, Natalie Ross-Smith, Carrie A. Batten, Andrew E. Shaw, Simon J. Anthony, Alan R. Samuel, Karin E. Darpel, Eva Veronesi, Chris A.L. Oura, Karam P. Singh, Kyriaki Nomikou, Abraham C. Potgieter, Houssam Attoui, Eugene van Rooij, Piet van Rijn, Kris De Clercq, Frank Vandenbussche, Stéphan Zientara, Emmanuel Bréard, Corinne Sailleau, Martin Beer, Bernd Hoffman, Philip S. Mellor, Peter P.C. Mertens. (2008). Sequence analysis of bluetongue virus serotype 8 from the Netherlands 2006 and comparisons to other European BTV strains. Virology 377, 308-318.

Dijkstra, E., van der Ven, I.J.K., Hölzel, D.R., van Rijn, P.A., and Meiswinkel, R. (2008). Culicoides chiopterus as a potential vector of bluetongue virus in Europe. Vet. Record. Letter 422.


Backx, A., Heutink, C.G., van Rooij, E.M.A., and van Rijn, P.A. (2007). Clinical signs by Bluetongue virus serotype 8 in sheep and goats. Vet. Record 161, 591-593.

Meiswinkel, R., van Rijn, P., Leijs, P., and Goffredo, M. (2007). Potential new Culicoides vector of bluetongue virus in northern Europe. Vet. Record, 161, 564-565).