Africa’s Shuni virus could spread to Europe and the Middle East, researchers warn

The little-known Shuni virus, capable of killing horses, should be monitored in case it expands into regions such as Europe and the Middle East, according to researchers.

It is described by researchers as a neglected re-emerging virus capable of infecting a range of animals. It is thought to be transmitted by blood-feeding insects.

Researchers set out to learn more about the Shuni virus association with fever and neurological disease in horses over a 10-year period, 2009 to 2019.

In total, samples from 24 of 1820 horses submitted to the zoonotic arbovirus surveillance program tested positive for the virus using molecular-based testing between 2009 and 2019, representing 1.3% of the animals. Findings:

  • Cases were detected in all provinces, with most (37.5%) occurring in Gauteng.
  • Neurological signs occurred in 21 of the 24 cases, with a fatality rate of 45.8%.
  • Gene testing identified strains previously identified in South Africa

“Our findings suggest that Shuni virus is circulating annually in South Africa and, despite it being relatively rare, it causes severe neurological disease and death in horses.”

“Shuni virus should be investigated as a cause of neurological disease in animals and humans in other African countries and monitored for expansion to new regions such as Europe and the Middle East,” they said.

Source: doi.org & Horsetalk.co.nz

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