Neosporosis is found worldwide and causes to financial losses through embryonic losses, abortion, culled cattle and reduced milk production. Neospora caninum is a microscopic protozoan parasite that causes the disease neosporosis. Neosporosis is a major cause of abortion in cattle. Abortion can occur anytime throughout gestation.
The Neospora caninum parasite appears to be spread by congenital transfer of the rapidly multiplying developmental stage of the parasite, called tachyzoites, from the mother across the placenta, to the fetus. It is thought that Neospora caninum can be transferred this way during pregnancy due to 'reactivation' of the cyst form of the parasite, followed by entry into the bloodstream, and transported across the placenta to infect the fetus. Although abortion is often observed, most calves are born infected with the parasite and yet show no clinical signs of disease. In herds that have problems with Neospora caninum any heifers retained for breeding are likely to abort during their first pregnancy. These calves then repeat the cycle and transmit the parasite to their own offspring during gestation. Neospora caninum oocysts are very resistant to harsh environmental conditions, and can remain infections for many months in any environment. Oocysts are shed by animals that are termed "hosts". The dog is the most common host, but it is possible that other canids like coyotes and foxes can also be carriers. It is believed that cattle ingest oocysts that are in contaminate feed or pastures and then become infected.
Diagnosis of Neospora caninum includes both blood testing of the aborting dam and examination of the aborted fetus by a diagnostic lab. The fetal brain is the most consistent infected tissue used to diagnose Neospora caninum.
A killed vaccine is available. Administration of the vaccine has been associated with a statistical reduction in abortions. Once the vaccine has been given to a cow, a blood test for Neospora caninum is no longer valid.
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Information contained in this article from one or more of the following:
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
South Carolina Extension Service
Nebraska Extension Service
Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension Service
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension
University of Minnesota Extension Service