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Natural transmission of orf virus from clinically normal ewes to orf-naive sheep
  1. P. F. Nettleton, BVMS, MSc, PhD, MRCVS1,
  2. J. A. Gilray, HNC1,
  3. D. L. Yirrell, BSc, PhD1,1,
  4. G. R. Scott, BSc, MS, PhD, FRCVS2 and
  5. H. W. Reid, BVMS, PhD, DTVM, MRCVS1
  1. 1 Moredun Research Institute, 408 Gilmerton Road, Edinburgh EH17 7JH
  2. 2 Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh Veterinary Field Station, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG


The apparent natural transmission of orf virus from clinically normal ewes to susceptible sheep was observed during a border disease vaccine experiment. The 14 susceptible sheep were persistently infected with border disease virus and had been reared indoors in isolation from other sheep since birth. Their ages ranged from two to four years and they were housed in two groups: group 1 consisted of four sheep persistently infected with the Moredun strain of border disease virus and group 2 consisted of 10 sheep persistently infected with the Oban strain of the virus. On day 0, six sheep were removed from group 2 and rehoused. To the remaining four sheep in each group were added eight four- to six-year-old pregnant conventionally reared ewes at 48 days gestation. Fourteen days later the four sheep in group 1 were moved to another pen housing eight similar five-year-old pregnant ewes at 48 days' gestation, and the four sheep from group 2 were rehoused with their original stallmates. Twenty-one days later lip lesions typical of orf were first observed on the sheep from both groups and the disease spread to all the sheep persistently infected with border disease virus over the next four weeks. Virological and serological evidence demonstrated that the source of infection for the sheep was almost certainly the conventionally reared ewes, on which no lesions resembling orf were observed at any time during the study.

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  • Dr Yirrell's present address is The Centre for HIV Research, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Waddington Building, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JN

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