Achievements of an eradication programme against caprine arthritis encephalitis virus in South Tyrol, Italy

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Abstract

Small ruminant lentivirus infections in goats affect both production and animal welfare. This represents a threat to the qualitative and quantitative growth of goat farming, recently observed in mountainous regions such as the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol (Italy). To monitor and eradicate the caprine arthritis encephalitis virus in this goat population, a compulsory eradication campaign was launched, based on a strict census of small ruminants and yearly serological testing of all animals, followed by the consequent culling of seropositive individuals. The campaign succeeded in completely eliminating cases of clinical disease in goats, while drastically reducing the seroprevalence at the herd as well as individual animal level. The serological outcome of the introduced control measures was determined using commercially available ELISA kits, demonstrating their suitability for use in this type of campaign, aimed at reducing seroprevalence as well as clinical manifestations of these infections. However, this clear success is diminished by the failure to achieve a complete eradication of these viruses. The reasons leading to the observed tailing phenomenon and the occurrence of new infections in already sanitised flocks are discussed and implementation of further measures are proposed.

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