In autumn 2011, maternal infection amongst cattle and sheep with the novel Schmallenberg virus (SBV) resulted in increased rates of stillbirth and congenital malformations including arthrogryposis in lambs and calves. Experience from similar viruses suggested that the risk of human disease was low, but it could not be excluded. UKTIS was tasked with coordinating surveillance for any early signals of a teratogenic effect from SBV infection in humans. A two-pronged approach was adopted, with ‘astute clinicians’ in the UK and worldwide being approached through links with established paediatric pathology, neuromuscular paediatric and genetics networks to report unusual or unexplained cases or clusters of arthrogryposis to UKTIS. In addition, collaboration with UK congenital malformation registries has been formalised to provide a review of arthrogryposis rates for previous years, with a view to registries analysing arthrogryposis and related malformation rates prospectively over five years on a quarterly basis.
As of April 2013, no cases of suspected SBV teratogenesis in humans had been reported to UKTIS. Baseline analysis of annual arthrogryposis and associated congenital anomaly rates before and after 2011 has been undertaken by congenital anomaly registries across the UK. This project is now closed.