Molecular identification of a novel deltaproteobacterium as the etiologic agent of epizootic bovine abortion (foothill abortion)

Donald P. King, Ching I. Chen, Myra T. Blanchard, Brian M. Aldridge, Mark Anderson, Richard Walker, John Maas, Don Hanks, Mark Hall, Jeffrey L. Stott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Epizootic bovine abortion (EBA) is endemic in California's coastal range and the foothill regions of the Sierra Nevada, where it has been the primary diagnosed cause of abortion in beef cattle for >50 years. Investigation of these losses has defined a specific fetal syndrome characterized by late-term abortion or birth of weak or dead calves. Although the unusual clinical presentation and unique fetal pathology associated with EBA have been recognized since the 1950s, the identity of the etiologic agent is unknown. In this study, suppression-hybridization PCR was used to identify a fragment of the 16S rRNA gene of a previously undescribed bacterium in thymus tissue derived from afected fetuses. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that this pathogen was a deltaproteobacterium closely related to members of the order Myxococcales. A specific PCR was subsequently developed to detect the presence of this bacterium in DNA extracted from fetal thymuses. Using histopathology as the definitive diagnosis for EBA, this PCR demonstrated 100% specificity and 88% sensitivity. The bacterium was also detected in the argasid tick Ornithodoros coriaceus, which is the recognized vector of EBA. These data imply a close association between this novel agent and the etiology of EBA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-609
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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