Grassi et al.
Wild ungulates as sentinel of flaviviruses and tick-borne zoonotic pathogen circulation: an Italian perspective
BMC Vet Res. 2023;19(1):155. doi:10.1186/s12917-023-03717-x

A study has been carried out in northern Italy to assess the prevalence of zoonotic flaviviral viruses like TBE virus and various zoonotic bacteria in wild ungulate blood and associated tick samples. A total of 281 blood samples from culled wild ungulates were collected from three different regions, the Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli Venezia. The species of ungulates included roe deer, red deer, wild boar, mouflon and chamois.

34/111 blood samples were TBE ELISA IgG positive, and in neutralization assay, 29 of these 34 samples were confirmed TBE antibody positive. Positive animals were mainly from the alpine and prealpine areas.

Of note, TBE seroconversion in alpine chamois has never been described in Europe before.

In 406 Ixodes ricinus ticks collected from the culled animals, no TBE virus could be detected.                                                     

These results document that wild ungulates are suitable animals for serological surveys for TBE virus circulation. As also described by others, finding positive animals in areas where no human case has been reported could help to identify potential TBE risk areas.

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