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In humans, it can cause febrile diseases and meningitis in worst case. Usutu virus caused a die-off of wild birds in south western Germany in 2011, according to estimates with more than 250,000 blackbirds falling victim. In order to be able to estimate the medical significance of the Usutu outbreak, we examined 4,200 samples from healthy blood donors from south western Germany in 2012. Since we could not expect to find viruses in the blood, we searched for serum antibodies, which can still be detected for months or years after infection. One blood donor tested positive. His constellation of antibodies showed that Usutu infection had taken place in late summer of 2011. The blood donor came from the city of Groß- Gerau in the state of Hessen, i.e. from precisely the area where a particularly large number of birds had died. We presently are investigating samples from patients with meningitis in Heidelberg University Hospital to determine whether serious stages of Usutu infection had also occurred in humans.
Becker N. et al., PLoS One 2012, 7(2):e32604
Hanna Jöst, Stephan Günther, Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit and external cooperation partners (see publication)