Dynamics of Neospora caninum-Associated Abortions in a Dairy Sheep Flock and Results of a Test-and-Cull Control Programme

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Neospora caninum is an apicomplexan parasite that can cause abortions and perinatal mortality in sheep. Although ovine neosporosis has been described worldwide, there is a lack of information about the relationship between N. caninum serostatus and the reproductive performance. In this study, we described the infection dynamics in a dairy sheep flock with an abortion rate up to 25% and a N. caninum seroprevalence of 32%. Abortions were recorded in 36% and 9% of seropositive and seronegative sheep, respectively. Seropositive sheep were more likely to abort twice (OR = 4.44) or three or more times (OR = 10.13) than seronegative sheep. Endogenous transplacental transmission was the main route of transmission since 86% of seropositive sheep had seropositive offspring. Within dams that had any abortion, seropositive sheep were more likely than seronegative ones to have female descendants that aborted (OR = 8.12). The slight increase in seropositivity with the age, the low percentage of animals with postnatal seroconversion or with low avidity antibodies, and the seropositivity of one flock dog, indicated that horizontal transmission might have some relevance in this flock. A control programme based on selective culling of seropositive sheep and replacement with seronegative animals was effective in reducing the abortion rate to 7.2%.
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