Histochemical and immunohistochemical evidence of a bacterium associated with lesions of epizootic bovine abortion

Mark L Anderson, P. C. Kennedy, Myra Blanchard, L. Barbano, P. Chiu, R. L. Walker, M. Manzer, M. R. Hall, D. P. King, Jeffrey L Stott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Epizootic bovine abortion (EBA), a tick-transmitted disease of pregnant cattle grazing foothill pastures, is a major cause of reproductive failure in California and adjacent states. Affected fetuses develop a chronic disease, resulting in late-term abortion or premature calving. Despite investigations spanning 50 years, to the authors' knowledge, the etiologic agent of EBA has not yet been isolated from affected fetuses or the tick vector. The diagnosis of EBA is based on gross and microscopic lesions. Recently, documentation that the etiologic agent is susceptible to antibiotics and identification of a unique 16S deltaproteobacterial rDNA gene sequence in 90% of thymus tissues from aborted fetuses have supported the role of a bacterial infection as the cause of EBA. To determine whether bacteria could be detected in the tissues, histochemical staining and immunohistochemical procedures were used on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. Use of a modified Steiner silver stain revealed small numbers of intracytoplasmic bacterial rods in 37 of 42 thymic samples from EBA-affected fetuses. Improved detection was achieved by use of immunohistochemical staining with serum from EBA-affected fetuses that resulted in detection of numerous bacterial rods in the cytoplasm of histiocytic cells in the thymus from all 42 EBA-affected fetuses. Immunohistochemical examination of additional tissues from 21 field and experimental EBA cases revealed positively stained intracytoplasmic bacterial rods in many organs with inflammatory lesions. Use of the modified Steiner stain and immunohistochemical staining of tissues from negative-control fetuses failed to reveal organisms. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report to document morphologic evidence of a bacterium associated with the lesions of EBA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-80
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Bovine abortion
  • Deltaproteobacterium
  • Epizootic bovine abortion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


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