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Researchers aim sights on Trojan cows

13 June, 2013

University of Adelaide researchers are developing a test to help eliminate hidden carriers of a significant disease in Australian cattle herds, commonly known as Bovine Pestivirus.

It's estimated that as many as 91.5 per cent of Australian dairy and beef cattle herds, and just over half of all cattle, have been exposed to Bovine Pestivirus, more correctly called Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

While most normally healthy cattle recover easily from the disease, up to 17 per cent of South Australian cattle herds are believed to contain at least one persistently infected 'carrier' animal.

Sasha Lanyon, PhD student, says many farmers are unaware that their herds are infected with BVD infection and that it is costing them money.

"BVD is a reproductive disease," Lanyon said.

"Cows can abort or have stillborn calves, or the calves can be infected with the disease while still in the womb. These calves become persistently infected 'carriers' which can never be cured and go on to infect others.

"The disease can also cause substantial losses through immune suppression leading to higher rates of other major cattle diseases such as mastitis."

Although there are reliable diagnostic tests available that can detect persistently infected animals, they can't identify cows that are carrying an infected foetus.

"These so-called 'Trojan cows' give birth to persistently infected calves which can cause serious loss to herds they are introduced to," Lanyon said.

"One South Australian herd lost nearly $150,000 in 2008 when a persistently infected bull carrying the virus was introduced to the herd, which had never been exposed to the disease before."

Lanyon, under the supervision of Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology Michael Reichel, is conducting a pilot trial in a small group of heifers carrying infected calves and, if successful, will continue with a full-scale trial next year. Preliminary results are promising.

"We're aiming to be able to detect low levels of virus in the cow during late gestation when the virus in the infected foetus crosses over the placenta," she said.

"The ability to identify cows with infected foetuses would minimise the threat of these 'Trojan cows' and be a very valuable tool in BVD control and eradication."

Lanyon has just presented her research at the World Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians conference in Berlin, the premier conference in the field.

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Stephen | Monday, June 17, 2013, 8:00 PM
This is a most critically important article! However, like many worthwhile Scientific research projects, it has overlooked the most critically significant factor. The learned academics overseeing Sasha Lanyon's commendable project into Bovine Pestivirus, more correctly called Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD)., have overlooked ther most significant factor. They appear not to have suggested that she make serious studies of the federal Government and a number of old cows and bovines that obviously suffer from this terrible complaint! Not only do they suffer, but they are spreading it throughout Australia to the population in general, with the most horrific and diabolical effects imaginable to mankind. There is, I believe, a reasonable chance that a miracle cure or at least a very profound step fowrward in ridding us of this scourge as far as the strain that has infected Canberra, will be announced on the mid evening broadcasts to the nation on the 14TH of September next. The nation wishes you well Sasha, imn your endeavors; but please pay urgent attention tpo that dastardly herd of old cows that are found at the Chateau Labouer!