PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2019 02 7;13(2):e0007162. Epub 2019 Feb 7.
UMR 1161 Virology, ANSES, INRA, ENVA, ANSES Animal Health Laboratory, EURL for equine diseases, Maisons-Alfort, France.
New Caledonia and French Polynesia are areas in which arboviruses circulate extensively. A large serological survey among horses from New Caledonia and French Polynesia was carried out to investigate the seroprevalence of flaviviruses in the horse population. Here, 293 equine sera samples were screened for flaviviruses using a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (cELISA). The positive sera were then confirmed using a flavivirus-specific microsphere immunoassay (MIA) and seroneutralization tests. This serosurvey showed that 16.6% (27/163) and 30.8% (40/130) of horses were positive for cELISA tests in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, respectively, but the MIA technique, targeting only flaviviruses causing neuro-invasive infections in humans and horses (i.e. West Nile virus [WNV], Japanese encephalitis virus [JEV] and tick-borne encephalitis virus [TBEV]), showed negative results for more than 85% (57/67) of the cELISA-positive animals. Seroneutralization tests with the main flaviviruses circulating in the South Pacific revealed that 6.1% (10/163; confidence interval [95% CI] 3.0%-11.0%) of sera in New Caledonia and 7.7% (10/130; 95% CI 3.8%-13.7%) in French Polynesia were positive for dengue virus serotype 1 (DENV1) and 4.3% (7/163; 95% CI 1.7%-8.6%) in New Caledonia and 15.4% (20/130, 95% CI 9.7%-22.8%) in French Polynesia were found positive for Zika virus (ZIKV). Seroprevalence of the JEV and WNV flaviviruses on the 293 samples from both island groups were comparatively much lower (less than 2%). This seroprevalence study in the horse population shows that horses can be infected with dengue and Zika viruses and that these infections lead to seroconversions in horses. The consequences of these infections in horses and their role in ZIKV and DENV epidemiological cycles are two issues that deserve further investigation.