In a previous study, the presence of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) in questing Ixodes ricinus L. ticks and in field derived ticks that engorged on small mammals (n = 9,986) was investigated at four sites located in a TBE area in Switzerland. Two of these sites were already recognized as TBE foci (Thun and Belp) and the screening of ticks revealed the presence of TBEV in ticks at a third site, Kiesen, but not at the fourth one, Trimstein. The aim here was to test another approach to detect TBE endemic areas. Sera from 333 small mammals (Apodemus flavicollis, A. sylvaticus, Myodes glareolus) captured in 2006 and 2007 at the four sites were examined for the presence of antibodies against TBEV using immunofluorescence and avidity tests. Overall the prevalence of antibodies against TBEV in rodents reached 3.6% (12/333). At two sites known as TBE foci, Thun and Belp, anti-TBEV antibodies were detected in 9.9% (9/91) and 1.6% (1/63) of rodent sera, respectively. At the third site, Kiesen, recently identified as a TBE focus by the detection of TBEV in ticks, anti-TBEV antibodies were detected in 1.8% (2/113) of rodent sera. Finally, at Trimstein, none of the examined rodent sera had antibodies against TBEV (0/66). This study shows another approach to detect TBE foci by testing antibodies in small mammal sera that is less time-consuming and less expensive than molecular tools.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2