The genus Macavirus, subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae, comprises ungulate viruses that infect domestic and wild ruminants and swine. They cause asymptomatic latent infections in reservoir hosts and malignant catarrhal fever in susceptible species. Lung, spleen, bronchial lymph node, and tongue were collected from 448 cattle (348 necropsied, 100 slaughtered) in Switzerland, United Kingdom, Finland, Belgium, and Germany to determine their infection with bovine herpesvirus-6 (BoHV-6) and gammaherpesviruses of other ruminants, i.e., ovine herpesvirus-1 and -2, caprine herpesvirus-2, and bison lymphotropic herpesvirus, using quantitative PCR. Only BoHV-6 was detected, with an overall frequency of 32%, ranging between 22% and 42% in the different countries. Infection was detected across all ages, from one day after birth, and was positively correlated with age. There was no evidence of an association with specific disease processes. In positive animals, BoHV-6 was detected in all organs with high frequency, consistently in the lungs or spleen. Viral loads varied substantially. In BoHV-6-positive gravid cows, organs of fetuses tested negative for infection, indicating that the virus is not vertically transmitted. Our results confirm previous data indicating that BoHV-6 is a commensal of domestic cattle not associated with disease processes and confirm that infections with other macaviruses are rare and sporadic.
Keywords: BoHV-6; commensal; gammaherpesvirus; qPCR; European cattle