Experimental Infection of White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginanus) with Heartland Virus

Lorelei L. Clarke Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia;

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Mark G. Ruder Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Daniel Mead Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Department of Population Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Elizabeth W. Howerth Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia;

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Heartland virus (HRTV) is a phlebovirus suspected to be transmitted by Amblyomma americanum, commonly known as the lone star tick, and reported to cause illness in humans, which is characterized by thrombocytopenia and leukopenia. Heartland virus–reactive antibodies have been detected in a variety of wildlife species including white-tailed deer (WTD). To better understand the potential role of deer in the epidemiology of HRTV, we experimentally inoculated five WTD fawns with HRTV and monitored for clinical disease, viremia, virus shedding, and seroconversion. None of the animals showed signs of clinical disease, and there was no detectable viremia or virus shedding postinoculation. Two wild-caught fawns entered the study with preexisting antibody titers against HRTV. All animals showed minimal immune responses against HRTV after needle inoculation. In conclusion, this study does not indicate that WTD are a likely reservoir for HRTV in natural settings.

Author Notes

Financial support: The research in this article was supported by a grant jointly funded by the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, Office of the Vice President for Research, the Department of Pathology, and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study.

Authors’ addresses: Lorelei L. Clarke and Elizabeth W. Howerth, Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, E-mails: lclarke@uga.edu and howerth@uga.edu. Mark G. Ruder and Daniel Mead, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, E-mails: mgruder@uga.edu and dmead@uga.edu.

Address correspondence to Elizabeth W. Howerth, Department of Pathology, University of Georgia, 501 D.W. Brooks Dr., Athens, GA 30602. E-mail: howerth@uga.edu

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