Vaccinia virus detection in dairy products made with milk from experimentally infected cows.
Vaccinia virus (VACV) is the agent of bovine vaccinia (BV), an emerging zoonosis that causes exanthematic lesions on the teats of dairy cows and on the hands of milkers. The virus has been detected in the milk of naturally infected cows. The objective of this study was to investigate and quantify VACV DNA as well as the presence of infectious virus particles in samples of cheese curd, cheese whey and pasteurized milk produced using milk from cows experimentally inoculated with VACV-GP2, a Brazilian isolate of VACV (VACV-BR). VACV DNA was detected in samples of cheese and pasteurized milk at different time points, even after the resolution of the typical lesions caused by VACV, which occurred after 22 days post-infection (dpi), on average. Moreover, it was possible to detect infectious viral particles in cheese samples on alternate days until 27 dpi. The presence of both VACV DNA and infectious viral particles in cheese samples throughout the clinical course of BV and even after the disappearance of the typical clinical signs of disease draws attention to the risk associated with consumption of the cheese. Furthermore, VACV-contaminated milk and cheese may represent an occupational risk to cheesemakers who often manipulate milk and cheese curd without wearing gloves.