Bluetongue virus serotype 3 (BTV-3) has been found in the US since 1999 and was recently identified in white-tailed deer (WTD; Odocoileus virginianus) found dead in Virginia, US and West Virginia, US in 2016. Bluetongue viruses are known to cause pathologic changes in WTD; however, the relative virulence and pathogenicity of BTV-3 in WTD is unknown. In our study, eight WTD fawns, 6–12 wk old, were needle inoculated subcutaneously with a field isolate of BTV-3, with one fawn shaminoculated as a control during July 2017; all were monitored to determine the pathogenicity of BTV-3 in WTD. All inoculated fawns developed viremias that were first detected on postinoculation day (PID), 3 with peak titers on PID 5 by both quantitative reverse-transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) and virus isolation. The sham-inoculated control fawn also became viremic on PID 12, presumably through contact with infected fawns. Mild clinical signs, including periorbital edema and hyperemia, were first seen on PID 5. None of the fawns developed a significant febrile response, clinical pathology changes, or BTV-3 neutralizing antibodies. The cytokines TNF-α, IL-1β, and IFN-α were not detected by commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays developed for bovids. The absence of severe clinical disease, fibrinogenemia, thrombocytopenia, and leukopenia, along with the lack of seroconversion and a detectable cytokine response during the study period, is atypical when compared to previous experimental BTV serotype infections in WTD but may be related to the young age of these deer, possible attenuation of the BTV-3 strain used, innate resistance or, in some cases to maternally derived antibody to other BTV serotypes.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3