During the past decade, Neospora caninum infection has emerged as an important reproductive disease in cattle throughout the world. Abortion, occurring during the middle of gestation, is the primary clinical sign of the infection in cattle. Surveys in several countries from three continents have identified N. caninum infection as the major diagnosed cause of bovine abortion. Both endemic and epidemic patterns of abortion may occur in herds. An important feature of this disease is that the protozoan parasite is maintained in cattle as a chronic infection which can be passed on to the fetus during pregnancy. Two methods for the transmission of the infection in cattle have been proposed and are the subject of current investigations. Horizontal transmission utilizes a two-host life cycle whereby the cow is infected from ingestion of coccidial oocyst stages shed by the definitive host. Experimental infections have confirmed that the dog is a definitive host for the parasite. There is epidemiological evidence that the dog has a role in the prevalence of the infection but, as yet, no confirmation that the dog is the source for natural infections in cattle. Vertical transplacental transmission of the infection is an important route of infection in many herds. Vertical transmission occurs because fetal infection frequently does not result in abortion but rather the fetus survives to be a persistently infected animal. A heifer calf that is born congenitally infected is capable of transmitting the infection to the next generation when she becomes pregnant, thus maintaining the infection in the herd. The clinical outcome of transplacental fetal infection with N. caninum is likely determined by maternal arid fetal immune responses which involve humoral, and most importantly, cell-mediated immune factors. The diagnosis of the infection is assisted through histopathology and immunohistochemical examination of aborted fetuses and serologic testing of cattle for evidence of infection. Several types of serologic tests, based on the use of culture-derived organisms or recombinant N. caninum antigens are available. There are no proven control methods for the prevention or treatment of neosporosis. Suggested control measures focus on programs to reduce the number of congenitally infected animals retained in the herd and to minimize the opportunity for postnatal transmission from the environment. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology