Serological evidence of Usutu virus occurrence in North-Eastern Italy.
In the recent years, Usutu virus (USUV), a flavivirus of the Japanese encephalitis virus complex, has been reported in Central Europe. As part of a systematic surveillance programme to monitor possible entrance and/or circulation of vector-borne viruses, since 2001, sentinel-chicken flocks were placed throughout the Italian territory nearby areas considered at risk of virus introduction. They have been periodically checked for the presence of antibodies against flaviviruses by indirect ELISA, plaque reduction neutralization test for Usutu, West Nile and tick-borne encephalitis viruses. In July 2007, a sentinel chicken in a flock of 20 animals located within the Ravenna province seroconverted to USUV reaching neutralizing titres up to 1:5120. A second chicken seroconverted to the same virus 2 months later. Although no virus was rescued from these animals and from wild or farm birds sampled in the area, these results still provided evidence of the circulation of USUV in north-eastern Italy.