Detection and molecular analysis of West Nile virus infections in birds of prey in the eastern part of Austria in 2008 and 2009

Eveline Wodak*, Susanne Richter, Zoltán Bagó, Sandra Revilla-Fernández, Herbert Weissenböck, Norbert Nowotny, Petra Winter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


The emergence of West Nile virus (WNV) was expected in Austria since the initial discovery of the infection in neighbouring Hungary in 2003/2004. In 2008 six cases of West Nile disease were diagnosed at the Institute for Veterinary Disease Control Mödling, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), involving five goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) and one gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), which were found dead in the eastern Austrian federal states of Lower Austria, Vienna and Styria, respectively. Pathomorphological and immunohistochemical findings suggested a WNV infection. Virus was isolated in embryonated specific pathogen free chicken eggs and propagated in mouse neuroblastoma cells (NA), in which a cytopathic effect occurred. The virus was identified and characterised by electron microscopic examination and molecular detection using RT-PCR, sequencing, and phylogenetic analysis. The Austrian WNV sequences exhibited nucleotide identities of 99.9% to the lineage 2 WNV sequences described in Hungary since 2004. In addition, 71 sera of 14 different bird species were screened for the presence of WNV antibodies using a commercial ELISA: 43.7% of the tested samples showed antibody titers. Selected positive sera were also subjected to WNV neutralisation tests, in which the ELISA results were verified in 66%. The results of this study confirm unambiguously the presence of a lineage 2 WNV infection in birds of prey in the eastern part of Austria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-366
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - May 5 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Austria
  • Flavivirus
  • Goshawk
  • Mosquito-borne flavivirus
  • West Nile virus
  • Zoonosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • General Veterinary


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