Diagnostic studies of abortion in Danish cattle 2015-2017

Godelind Wolf-Jäckel*, Mette Sif Hansen, Gitte Larsen, Elisabeth Holm, Jørgen Steen Agerholm, Tim Kåre Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Abortion is a major source of economic losses in cattle breeding. Abortion occurs due to a wide range of causes, but infections are the most frequently diagnosed. However, establishing an aetiological diagnosis remains challenging due to the large variety of bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and fungi that have been associated with abortion in cattle. Economic restraints limit the range of diagnostic methods available for routine diagnostics, and decomposition of the conceptus or lack of proper fetal and/or maternal samples further restrict the diagnostic success. In this study, we report recent diagnostic findings from bovine abortions in Denmark, a country that has a large dairy sector and is free from most infectious agents causing epizootic abortion in cattle. The aims of the study were: (i) to identify infectious causes of bovine abortion in Denmark, (ii) to categorise the diagnostic findings based on the level of diagnostic certainty, and (iii) to assess the diagnostic rate. Due to economic restraints, only a limited panel of routine diagnostic methods were available. Placentas and/or fetuses from mid- to late-term abortions and stillbirths (n = 162) were submitted to the Danish National Veterinary Institute between January 2015 and June 2017. The aborted materials were examined macroscopically, histologically, and by bacterial culture. Maternal blood samples were tested for bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) antibodies. The likely aetiology of the abortion was diagnosed in 52 cases, resulting in a diagnostic rate of 33%. The most common cause was protozoal infection (19%) followed by infection with Trueperella pyogenes (3%), Staphylococcus aureus (2%), and non-haemolytic Escherichia coli (2%). Lesions in fetuses with a protozoal infection were consistent with neosporosis. In many cases (38%), inflammatory changes were found in the placenta and/or fetal organs but no specific aetiology was identified. Neither infection with Brucella spp. nor maternal BVDV antibodies were detected. The majority of submitting herds (92%) were each represented by fewer than three abortion cases over the study period. Protozoal infection, most likely neosporosis, was the most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion and the only one associated with potential epizootic abortion events. Despite using a reduced number of diagnostic methods in comparison to other abortion studies, the diagnostic rate of this study was within the range reported in an earlier Danish study, as well as in recent international studies. The low number of submitted cases per herd and the sparse anamnestic information provided at submission hampered conclusions on the potential epizootic character of the abortion events in question.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Veterinaria Scandinavica
Volume62
Issue number1
Number of pages12
ISSN0044-605X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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