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Cross-sectional study of British wild deer for evidence of Schmallenberg virus infection
  1. Rebecca Marie Southwell1,
  2. Kenneth Sherlock2 and
  3. Matthew Baylis2
  1. 1 School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Neston, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Neston, UK
  1. Correspondence to Rebecca Marie Southwell, School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Neston, CH64 7TE, UK; R.M.Southwell{at}; Professor Matthew Baylis, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Neston, CH64 7TE, UK; matthew.baylis{at}


Background Schmallenberg virus (SBV) is an orthobunyavirus, carried by Culicoides biting midges, that causes reproductive problems in adult ruminants when infected during their gestation period. SBV was first detected in ruminants in the UK in 2011/2012 and then again in 2016. The reason behind the 2016 re-emergence of SBV is unknown, but one possibility is that it can be maintained in wildlife, such as deer. SBV has been detected at high seroprevalence in deer in a number of European countries, but only once in the UK in a single region.

Methods The purpose of this study was to survey wild deer across Great Britain for recent evidence of SBV. Deer hunters were recruited for the purpose of providing postmortem blood samples to be tested for SBV antibodies.

Results The seroprevalence of SBV in the British wild deer population was 13.8 per cent; found in red, roe, muntjac and fallow deer species, with more in deer further south.

Conclusion These results support the growing concern that SBV is now endemic in Great Britain and highlight the need to know the role of wildlife in SBV transmission.

  • culicoides
  • deer
  • vector-borne diseases
  • schmallenberg virus
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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Figure 1 has been corrected.

  • Funding This study was funded by the University of Liverpool Institute of Veterinary Science as part of a BSc in Veterinary Conservation Medicine, as well as an award from the British Deer Society (BDS).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by the University of Liverpool Veterinary Ethics Board prior to commencement of the study (VREC707).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data has been made freely available at

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