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Keywords:

  • Cattle;
  • hematology;
  • leukogram;
  • tick-borne disease

Background

Epizootic bovine abortion (EBA) is a tick-transmitted abortive disease of beef cattle in the western United States. Infected cattle do not have clinical signs until abortion occurs, usually within the last trimester of gestation. There is little information on the hematologic response of the dam following infection.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to determine if changes in blood leukocytes and serum IgG concentrations could be detected following experimental infection of pregnant heifers with the etiologic agent of EBA (aoEBA).

Methods

Twelve Angus heifers were infected during gestation with the aoEBA using an inoculum prepared from the thymus of an infected fetus. Five pregnant heifer controls were given an inoculum prepared from the thymus of an aoEBA-negative calf. PCVs, total and differential leukocyte counts, and serum IgG concentrations were measured weekly following administration of the inocula until abortion or calving. Gross and microscopic examinations were performed on all aborted fetuses to confirm infection.

Results

Eleven of 12 heifers in the treatment group aborted, and significant findings were decreased lymphocyte counts at weeks 1 and 14 postinoculation and increased monocyte counts at week 4 compared with control animals. Serum IgG concentrations were significantly increased at weeks 6–8 and 11 in the treatment group.

Conclusions

Leukogram changes are subtle in infected cattle. Future research efforts should be aimed at development of an antibody test specific for detection of previously infected animals, which could graze safely on EBA-endemic pastures.