Usutu Virus: An Arbovirus on the Rise

Viruses. 2019 Jul 12;11(7):640. doi: 10.3390/v11070640.


The Usutu virus (USUV) is a flavivirus that is drawing increasing attention because of its potential for emergence. First isolated in Africa, it was introduced into Europe where it caused significant outbreaks in birds, such as in Austria in 2001. Since then, its geographical distribution has rapidly expanded, with increased circulation, especially in the last few years. Similar to West Nile virus (WNV), the USUV enzootic transmission cycle involves Culex mosquitoes as vectors, and birds as amplifying reservoir hosts, with humans and other mammals likely being dead-end hosts. A similarity in the ecology of these two viruses, which co-circulate in several European countries, highlights USUV's potential to become an important human pathogen. While USUV has had a severe impact on the blackbird population, the number of human cases remains low, with most infections being asymptomatic. However, some rare cases of neurological disease have been described, both in healthy and immuno-compromised patients. Here, we will discuss the transmission dynamics and the current state of USUV circulation in Europe.

Keywords: USUV; Usutu; WNV; emergence; flavivirus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bird Diseases / epidemiology
  • Bird Diseases / virology
  • Birds / virology
  • Coinfection / virology
  • Culex / virology*
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Flavivirus / pathogenicity*
  • Flavivirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Flavivirus Infections / transmission*
  • Flavivirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Mosquito Vectors / virology
  • Phylogeny
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology
  • West Nile Fever / virology
  • West Nile virus

Supplementary concepts

  • Usutu virus