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Gollnick, Nicole S.; Scharr, Julia C.; Schares, Gereon und Langenmayer, Martin C.: Natural Besnoitia besnoiti infections in cattle: chronology of disease progression. In: BMC Veterinary Research 2015, 11:35





BACKGROUND: Bovine besnoitiosis is an emerging protozoan disease in cattle. Neither vaccines nor chemotherapeutic drugs are currently available for prevention and treatment of Besnoitia besnoiti infections. Therefore the implementation of appropriate disease management strategies is of utmost importance. The aim of this longitudinal study was to complement current knowledge on the chronology of disease progression. This was realized by correlating clinical findings in early stages of naturally acquired bovine besnoitiosis with results of real-time PCR of skin biopsies and of two western immunoblots and an immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT). Animals for this study were obtained by i) closely monitoring a cow-calf operation with a high prevalence of bovine besnoitiosis for cases of acute disease, and by ii) conducting a 12-week cohabitation experiment on pasture with five healthy heifers, a healthy bull and five B. besnoiti infected cows. A control group of six healthy heifers was kept at a minimal distance of 20 m. Further, the spectrum of potential insect vectors was determined. RESULTS: Infected cattle were followed up to a maximum of 221 days after first detection of B. besnoiti antibodies. Two severely affected cows developed visible and palpable alterations of skin, a decrease in body condition despite good feed intake, and chronic bovine besnoitiosis-associated laminitis leading to non-healing sole ulcers. The cows also had high reciprocal IFAT titers and high loads of parasite DNA in skin samples. Two heifers developed a mild clinical course characterized by few parasitic cysts visible in the scleral conjunctivae and vestibula vaginae. Both heifers became infected during the time of high insect activity of the species Musca domestica, Musca autumnalis, Haematobia irritans, and Stomoxys calcitrans. When a third heifer became subclinically infected, low insect activity was recorded. None of the six control heifers contracted a B. besnoiti infection. CONCLUSIONS: In chronic besnoitiosis, the severe clinical course apparently corresponded with high reciprocal IFAT titers and high loads of parasite DNA in skin, whereas mild and subclinical cases displayed lower values. Bovine besnoitiosis-associated laminitis represents an important complication in severe chronic disease which severely impairs animal welfare