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New project on dairy health

A £1.1 million grant has been given to the Moredun Research Institute to fund a three-year investigation of the role chlamydia-like organisms play in reproductive failure in UK dairy cattle.

The money, from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, will underpin a research collaboration involving scientists from the institute and the Royal Veterinary College London, in partnership with Pfizer Animal Health, who are co-funding the work, and DairyCo.

Reproductive failure in cattle is one area of great concern to the agricultural sector, as it has a major impact on productivity in UK cattle herds. While there are many factors contributing to reduced rates of reproduction, infection plays a key role, with 77% of diagnosed cases of bovine foetal death reported as resulting from infectious causes.

Diagnosis of these infectious causes of pre-natal death in cattle is poor. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the identification of a group of new emerging bacterial organisms that are found in the environment and have been shown to be associated with a variety of conditions in humans, such as pneumonia and miscarriage.

These organisms, which share similar biological characteristics to chlamydia species that are known to cause a broad range of infections in humans and animals, such as sexually-transmitted infections, pneumonia, blindness and foetal death, are referred to as chlamydia-like organisms, and are increasingly associated with the pre-natal death of calves.

The Moredun's lead scientist in the research collaboration, Dr David Longbottom, said: "We plan to follow up our preliminary studies to investigate the presence of these chlamydia-like organisms on dairy farms across the UK, determine how they may be transmitted to cattle from the environment and find out how the pathogen affects reproductive performance.

"The outcomes will lead to improved diagnoses of cattle reproductive failure, inform and educate the industry to the presence of these organisms, lead to improved management systems and determine whether vaccination may be an option to control the disease".

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