Recent advances in understanding the epidemiology of Neospora caninum in cattle

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Neospora caninum is the most frequently diagnosed cause of cattle abortion in New Zealand and is an important pathogen worldwide. The parasite has been found in aborted bovine foetuses and in puppies with neurological disease. Recent developments have provided new insights into the epidemiology of the disease that are reviewed in this article.

TRANSMISSION: Transplacental infection is of major importance in the spread of N. caninum overseas. Most congenital infections result in the birth of apparently healthy calves. Seroepidemiological studies indicate introduced point-source infections are also likely, as do investigations of abortion outbreaks in cattle herds attributed to N. caninum. Horizontal transmission is an important determinant of the stability of infection prevalence in a herd. Two potential sources of horizontal transmission that have recently been reported are: via a

canine definitive host and; cow-to-calf transmission through pooled colostrum or milk. Transmission parameters for the organism have been estimated using mathematical modeling, to explore the epidemiology and options for control of N. caninum infection in dairy cattle in the absence of precise

epidemiological data.

LIFE-CYCLE: Seroepidemiologic studies, combined with the knowledge that dogs can be a definitive host, provide evidence supporting a dog–cattle life-cycle. The importance of dogs in the epidemiology of bovine neosporosis is not yet clear. It is likely that N. caninum oocysts in dog faeces could serve as a source of infection for cattle and recent studies have shown that the canine and bovine isolatesflare the same organism. Infection of cattle orally exposed to oocysts has been demonstrated experimentally but not in nature. It is not known if other wild carnivores may serve as definitive hosts of N. caninum.

CONCLUSION: Despite active research for over a decade, very

little is known about the mechanisms of transmission of N. caninum. Vertical transmission is well documented but horizontal spread and the pathogenesis of abortion from this disease need further investigation. It is evident that, even with a very high probability of vertical transmission, some form of horizontal transmission is required for the disease to persist in a herd.

KEY WORDS: Neospora caninum, epidemiology, dogs, cattle, transmission.

Keywords: Abortion; Cattle - general; Disease transmission; Dog; Epidemiology; Protozoal diseases

Document Type: Book Review

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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