Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is an economically devastating disease of livestock in the Americas. Despite strong circumstantial evidence for the role of arthropods in epizootics, no hematophagous vector explains the field evidence. Based on the spatiotemporal association of grasshopper outbreaks and VS epizootics, we investigated the potential role of these insects as vectors and reservoirs of the disease. The critical steps in the grasshopper–bovine transmission cycle were demonstrated, including 1) 62% of grasshoppers [Melanoplus sanguinipes (F.)] fed vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) from cell culture became infected, with titers reaching 40,000 times the inoculative dose; 2) 40% of grasshoppers that cannibalized VSV-infected grasshopper cadavers became infected, amplifying virus up to 1,000-fold; 3) one of three cattle consuming VSV-infected grasshopper cadavers contracted typical VS and shed virus in saliva; and 4) 15% of grasshoppers became infected when fed saliva from this infected cow. The ecological conditions and biological processes necessary for these transmissions to occur are present throughout much of the Americas. Field studies will be required to show these findings are relevant to the natural epidemiology of VSV.
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Vol. 40 • No. 6