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Also Known As: Akabane Disease — AKA — Arthrogryposis Hydrancephaly Syndrome — AH Syndrome — Congenital Articular Rigidity — CAR — Congenital Arthrogryposis and Hydrancephaly Syndrome
Akabane is a teratogenic disease, infecting foetuses of cattle, sheep and goats in-utero.
Tropical and temperate regions, particularly Africa where it is thought to be present throughout the continent. Seroconversion in Kenya may be as high as 95% in animals of breeding age. In areas where infection prevalence is extremely high, no pathologic effects are seen due to the development of long lasting immunity at an early age.
Akabane virus is transmitted by insect vectors, mainly Culicoides midges but also mosquitoes of the Aedes spp. and Culex spp. and some species of tick. Mosquitoes may be solely mechanical vectors as no viral replication has been demonstrated to occur within them unlike Culicodes species.
Many wild ruminant and equid species have been demonstrated to have antibodies to Akabane virus. Clinical signs though, are only seen in cattle, sheep and goats, but other species may act as amplifying hosts for viral replication.
Arthrogryposis, or joint contracture, ankylosis (inability to straighten the joints), hydrancephaly and less commonly, polioencephalomyelitis are among the congenital signs seen in offspring of infected dams due to the teratogenic effects of Akabane. If the jaw is also malformed (brachygnathia/prognathia) then dysphagia will result. Other congenital lesions seen include cleft palate, lordosis and kyphosis.
Neurological effects of the disease manifest somewhat non-specifically as ataxia, recumbency, trembling, opisthotonous, dysmetria, hypermetria, nystagmus and blindness. However, a combination of musculoskeletal deformities and neurological deficits is the trademark of Akabane.
Akabane can also result in abortion or births of stillborns if foetal damage is too severe. Infertility and agalactia may also be seen in infected females but this is uncommon.
The pathogenesis and subsequent pathology depends on the timing of infection; the critical periods are 76-249 days in the cow and 30-53 days in the ewe.
The sudden onset of large numbers of abortions and clinical signs in neonatal stock as discussed above is highly suggestive of AKA.
Viral isolation can be attempted from placental caruncles and foetal fluid, membranes or nervous tissue. It can also be performed from serum/plasma of dams during peak vector activity periods. Virus can be innoculated into cell cultures and identified by Immunofluorescence (IF). PCR is also available.
Serologically, many tests are possible but ELISA predominates.
Antibodies to AKA may persist for up to 2 years after infection and often do not indicate clinical disease so are of little clinical use.
CNS lesions will be present in the spinal cord, cerebellum and motor spinal nerves. The limbs are usually locked in position due to the arthrogryposis and a fibrinous polyarticular synovitis may be present.
No treatment is available
The mainstay is vaccination. Protection should be at a maximum during late spring and early summer when vectors are at peak activity. Inactivated and live forms are available.
Vector control and protection/avoidance of animals from vectors are valuable but often impossible due to difficulties identifying vector breeding sites.
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This article has been expert reviewed by Nick Lyons MA VetMB CertCHP MRCVS
Date reviewed: July 8, 2012
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