Farm productive contexts and the dynamics of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) transmission


Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) is a viral disease that affects cattle and that is endemic to many European countries. It has a markedly negative impact on the economy, through reduced milk production, abortions, and a shorter lifespan of the infected animals. Cows becoming infected during gestation may give birth to Persistently Infected (PI) calves, which remain highly infective throughout their life, due to the lack of immune response to the virus. As a result, they are the key driver of the persistence of the disease both at herd scale, and at the national level. In the latter case, the trade-driven movements of PIs, or gestating cows carrying PIs, are responsible for the spatial dispersion of BVD. Past modeling approaches to BVD transmission have either focused on within-herd or between-herd transmission. A comprehensive portrayal, however, targeting both the generation of PIs within a herd, and their displacement throughout the country due to trade transactions, is still missing. We overcome this by designing a multiscale metapopulation model of the spatial transmission of BVD, accounting for both within-herd infection dynamics, and its spatial dispersion. We focus on Italy, a country where BVD is endemic and seroprevalence is very high. By integrating simple within-herd dynamics of PI generation, and the highly-resolved cattle movement dataset available, our model requires minimal arbitrary assumptions on its parameterization. We use our model to study the role of the different productive contexts of the Italian market, and test possible intervention strategies aimed at prevalence reduction. We find that dairy farms are the main drivers of BVD persistence in Italy, and any control strategy targeting these farms would lead to significantly higher prevalence reduction, with respect to targeting other production compartments. Our multiscale metapopulation model is a simple yet effective tool for studying BVD dispersion and persistence at country level, and is a good instrument for testing targeted strategies aimed at the containment or elimination of this disease. Furthermore, it can readily be applied to any national market for which cattle movement data is available.

In Preventive Veterinary Medicine
Eugenio Valdano
Eugenio Valdano
Principal Investigator