Louping-ill (LI) is a tick-borne viral disease of red grouse, Lagopus lagopus scoticus Lath. (Tetraonidae: Galliformes), and sheep, Ovis aries L. (Bovidae: Artiodactyla), that causes economic loss to upland farms and sporting estates. Unvaccinated sheep, grouse and mountain hares, Lepus timidus L. (Leporidae: Lagomorpha), are known to transmit LI virus, whereas red deer, Cervus elaphus L. (Cervidae: Artiodactyla), and rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus L. (Leporidae: Lagomorpha), do not. However, the role of small mammals is unknown. Here, we determine the role of small mammals, in particular field voles, Microtus agrestis L. (Muridae: Rodentia), in the persistence of LI virus on upland farms and sporting estates in Scotland, using field sampling and non-viraemic transmission trials. Small mammals were not abundant on the upland sites studied, few ticks were found per animal and none of the caught animals tested seropositive to LI virus. Laboratory trials provided no evidence that small mammals (field voles, bank voles, Clethrionomys glareolus L. (Muridae: Rodentia), and wood mice, Apodemus sylvaticus L. (Muridae: Rodentia), can transmit LI virus between cofeeding ticks and, in the field, LI virus was prevalent only in areas with known LI virus competent hosts (grouse, mountain hares or unvaccinated sheep) and absent elsewhere. In contrast to the case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus in Europe, it is concluded that small mammals seem to be relatively unimportant in LI virus persistence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science