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Cracking the problem: using egg whites to predict bluetongue outbreaks

C. J. Sanders, L. E. Harrup, L. A. Tugwell, V. A. Brugman, M. England, S. Carpenter

Culicoides biting midges are vectors of arboviruses such as bluetongue virus, which causes a potentially fatal disease in sheep, cattle and other ruminants. Quantification of the range and probability of Culicoides dispersal is essential to inform policy responses during outbreaks. A variety of methods have been used to quantify Culicoides dispersal at a local scale, including capture-mark-recapture (CMR) using fluorescent dusts; however, a key assumption of CMR studies is that the marking process does not effect the survival and behaviour of the insect. An alternative technique that addresses some of the limitations of CMR is the use of protein-based immunomarking, which allows the marking of insects without needing to collect them. This study used an ovalbumin (protein in egg white) immunomarking technique to quantify the within- and between-farm dispersal of Culicoides in southern England.

A mixed sheep and beef cattle farm in southern England was sprayed with liquid egg white solution so that insects were exposed to the immunomarker when they passed through the area (habitat immunomarking). Insects were then collected for three …

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