Detection of Specific Antibodies against Toscana Virus among Blood Donors in Northeastern Italy and Correlation with Sand Fly Abundance in 2014

Microorganisms. 2020 Jan 21;8(2):145. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8020145.


Toscana virus (TOSV) is a Phlebovirus transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies and is an important etiological agent of summer meningitis in the Mediterranean basin. Since TOSV infection is often asymptomatic, we evaluated the seroprevalence in blood donors (BDs) in the Bologna and Ferrara provinces (Northeastern Italy)-the areas with the highest and lowest numbers of TOSV neuroinvasive cases in the region, respectively. A total of 1208 serum samples from BDs were collected in April-June 2014 and evaluated for the presence of specific TOSV-IgG by ELISA. The IgG-reactive samples were confirmed by indirect immunofluorescence assay (IIF) and by microneutralization test (MN). Serum samples were defined as positive for anti-TOSV IgG when reactive by ELISA and by at least one second-level test; TOSV seroprevalence was 6.8% in the Bologna province, while no circulation of TOSV was detected in the Ferrara province. Sand fly abundance in 2014 was also estimated by a geographic information system using a generalized linear model applied to a series of explanatory variables. TOSV seroprevalence rate was strongly associated with the sand fly abundance index in each municipality, pointing out the strong association between sand fly abundance and human exposure to TOSV.

Keywords: Phlebotomus spp.; Toscana virus; arbovirus; neutralization; sand fly; seroprevalence; viral meningitis.