Recovery of Tonate Virus (“Bijou Bridge” Strain), a Member of the Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis Virus Complex, from Cliff Swallow Nest Bugs (Oeciacus vicarius) and Nestling Birds in North America
Vector-Borne Diseases Division, Bureau of Laboratories, Center for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Post Office Box 2087, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522
A second virus with distinct biological, serological, and physichemical properties was detected as a minority viral subpopulation in specimens of Cliff Swallow nest bugs (Oeciacus vicarius) and nestling bird sera containing Fort Morgan (FM) virus. The second virus, detected by a breakthrough neutralization test employing FM antiserum, was present in 5 of 11 FM virus-positive pools of nest bugs and in 4 of 38 birds from Colorado and South Dakota. The concentration of the second virus was 10-fold to 1,000-fold lower than that of FM virus. The second virus, which was provisionally named “Bijou Bridge” (BB) virus was shown by conventional serological tests to be a member of the Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) complex, and by tests employing antisera to the E2 viral glycoprotein to be identical with Tonate virus, previously isolated from birds and mosquitoes only in French Guiana. Experimental infection of House Sparrows and Cliff Swallows showed that they develop brief BB viremias and antibodies. Oe. vicarius bugs were resistant to oral infection with BB virus. The epidemiological significance of recovery of Tonate virus in North America is discussed.