Using serological studies to reconstruct the history of bluetongue epidemic in French cattle under successive vaccination campaigns.


Bluetongue virus is a vector-borne pathogen affecting ruminants that has caused major epidemics in France. Reconstructing the history of bluetongue in French cattle under control strategies such as vaccination has been hampered by the high level of sub-clinical infection, incomplete case data and poor understanding of vaccine uptake over time and space. To tackle these challenges, we used three age-structured serological surveys carried out in cattle (N = 22,342) from ten administrative subdivisions called departments. We fitted catalytic models within a Bayesian MCMC framework to reconstruct the force of seroconversion from infection or vaccination, and the population-level susceptibility per semester between 2007 and 2016. In the departments of the study area, we estimated that 36% of cattle had been infected prior to vaccine rollout that became compulsory from July 2008. The last outbreak case was notified in December 2009, at which time 83% of the animals were seropositive, under the cumulative effect of vaccination and infection. The probability of seroconversion per semester dropped below 10% after 2010 when vaccination became optional. Vaccine uptake was smaller during the 2012 campaign than during the one in 2011, with strong regional contrasts. Eighty four percent of cattle were susceptible when bluetongue re-emerged in 2015. Thus, serological surveys can be used to estimate vaccine uptake and the magnitude of infection, the relative effect of which can sometimes be inferred using prior knowledge on reported incidence and vaccination dates.

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