Equine infectious anaemia and mechanical transmission: Man and the wee beasties

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There is no credible evidence that the lentivirus that causes equine infectious anaemia (EIA) replicates in invertebrates. The virus persistently infects its equid hosts and is often present in blood in significant quantities. Blood-feeding arthropods thus have the potential to transfer the virus between hosts, especially if their feeding on the first host is interrupted and immediately continued on a second host. The general details and dynamics of mechanical transmission are included in this paper, as this agent presents an excellent model. Mechanical transmission can be effectively controlled if the dynamics and interactions of the host, virus and vector populations are understood. Efficient transmission is proportional to the amount of agent found in the source material, the environmental survival of the agent, the number of vector feedings, the number of interrupted feedings, vector refeeding, the proximity of infected and naive hosts, host population density, and the length of time during which vectors and hosts are in contact. Establishing firm quantitative risk estimates for EIA is impossible, mainly because the virus content in blood can change exponentially from day to day. The EIA virus can be transmitted by horse flies for at least 30 minutes after feeding on a horse with acute signs of EIA, but the probability of a horse fly being interrupted and completing its blood feeding on a second host at a distance of 50 m is very low, and the separation of infected and uninfected equids by 200 m breaks transmission. The statements above assume that human interactions are absent or do not contribute to the risk of virus transmission; however, the risk from human interventions, such as the too-often-used procedure of administering >200 ml of plasma to foals, can easily be more than 107 times greater than the risk posed by a single horse fly. Controlling EIA depends upon the identification of persistently infected equids by serological testing because other methods of identifying infective virus or viral genetic material are less accurate or impractical.

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OIE Revue Scientifique et Technique

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