An epidemic of bluetongue disease that has ravaged European sheep and cattle since 2015 may have been caused by infected semen used in cattle breeding, New Scientist reports. Researchers wrote in PLOS Biology yesterday that the genome of the virus is remarkably similar to samples from a previous epidemic that cost farmers billions, before vaccinations ended it in 2010. The virus can spread through biting midges and artificial insemination; the genetic similarity of the new sample suggests the use of infected cattle semen, kept in a freezer for years, could have sparked the new epidemic, the researchers write. They add that transmission probably happened accidentally within France, as regulations require testing semen for the virus whenever it is shipped between countries.
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