The effect of vaccination with a commercial inactivated Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) vaccine on the ability of BTV-8 to cross the ruminant placenta was investigated in two experiments. Ten pregnant ewes (Experiment 1) or heifers (Experiment 2) were vaccinated according to the manufacturer's instructions. Three weeks after the completion of the vaccination schedule, all vaccinated animals were infected with BTV-8 together with ten non-vaccinated pregnant animals that served as challenged controls. Four additional pregnant animals received a mock challenge at the same time point. Three weeks after the challenge, the foetuses were collected. In the sheep experiment, the lambs of the vaccinated ewes and the mock infected ewes were negative in the virus isolation, whereas BTV-8 could be isolated from 11/23 lambs of 6/10 ewes in the BTV-8 challenged control group. The incidence and severity of BTV associated lesions, such as haemorrhages, meningitis/encephalitis and necrosis in the placentomes was significantly higher in the BTV-8 challenged control group. The rate of transplacental transmission was less in the cattle experiment: BTV-8 could be detected in 2/10 calves in the BTV-8 challenged control group. All other calves were negative. Vaccination clearly reduced transplacental transmission of BTV-8 in the sheep experiment, whereas in the cattle experiment, the incidence of transmission was too low to demonstrate a significant reduction of transmission by vaccination. However, the vaccine very effectively blocked viraemia, which suggests that the vaccine might prevent transmission in cattle as well. Transplacental transmission of BTV has serious economical consequences, due to the loss of progeny to the livestock industry. Vaccination can be an important aid in the reduction of these economic losses.
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