Epidemiology and Infection

Special Article

Viraemic transmission of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus to ticks

A. J. Shepherda1 p1, R. Swanepoela1, S. P. Shepherda1, P. A. Lemana1 and O. Matheea2

a1 Department of Virology, University of the Witwatersrand and Special Pathogens Unit, National Institute for Virology, Sandringham 2131, Republic of South Africa

a2 Tick Research Unit, Veterinary Research Institute, Onderstepoort, Republic of South Africa


In order to determine the way in which vertebrates infected with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and potential ixodid tick vectors interact in nature, immature and adult ticks of several species were fed on viraemic mammals and then assayed for virus content at varying times after feeding. CCHF virus was not isolated from ticks of six species tested after feeding as adults and immature forms on sheep with viraemia of 102·5−3·2 LD 50/ml, nor from larval ticks fed on guinea-pigs and white-tailed rats with viraemia of 101·9−2·7 LD 50/ml. In contrast, virus was isolated from 10 of 152 pools of engorged adult ticks of 5 species that fed on cattle with viraemia of 101·5−2·7 LD 50/ml and from 3 of 137 female ticks after oviposition. Infection was transmitted to larval and nymphal Hyalomma truncatum and H. marginatum rufipes, but not to Rhipicephalus evertsi evertsi, from a scrub hare with viraemia of 104·2 50/ml but only nymphal H. truncatum and H. m. rufipes became infected from scrub hares with viraemia of 102·6−2·7 LD 50/ml. Infection was transmitted trans-stadially in H. m. rufipes and H. truncatum infected as nymphae, and adult H. m. rufipes transmitted infection to a sheep. No evidence of transovarial transmission was found in larval progeny of ticks exposed to CCHF virus as adults on sheep and cattle or as immatures on scrub hares.

(Accepted October 16 1990)


p1 Present address: Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG


† Reprint requests to: Professor R. Swanepoel, National Institute for Virology, Private Bag X4, Sandringham 2131, Republic of South Africa