Serological study of exposure to selected arthropod-borne pathogens in European bison (Bison bonasus) in Poland.
Bison bonasus is an indigenous species of Central and Eastern Europe with the largest wild population inhabiting Białowieża Primeval Forest; however, free-living and captive European bison are reared in many countries around the world. Despite that the European bison was rescued from the extinction after the First World War, it remains as endangered species. Changing environment as well as human activity may have contributed to the observed increase of the risk of the emergence and re-emergence of pathogens. The aim of the survey was to establish the distribution of four pathogens transmitted by arthropods including three arboviruses [Bluetongue disease virus (BTV), Epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and Schmallenberg virus (SBV)] and a bacteria (Francisella tularensis) in the main populations of European bison in Poland. A total of 251 European bison originating from eight main populations were included in the study and sampled between February 2011 and December 2014. Serum samples originated from chemically immobilized, eliminated or dead by natural causes animals. Additionally, 65 cervids from Białowieża Forest were tested to compare the seroprevalences of other ruminants inhabiting the same environment. The antibodies to SBV and BTV were found in 76.1% and 24.7% of European bison, respectively. In autumn 2012, simultaneous emergence of SBV and BTV in European bison was observed; however, while SBV has spread in all populations scattered around the country, BTV infections were observed only in the north-eastern part of Poland, where BTV cases have been previously reported in domestic ruminants. European bison age was found to be the only significant risk factor for SBV and BTV seroprevalences; however, this association was connected to the animal size, rather than to the length of exposure. None of the animals tested positive for antibodies against EHDV or F. tularensis. SBV exposure rate of cervids was much lower (35.4%) than in European bison, while BTV seroprevalence was comparable in both groups.