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Infectious Diseases - Microbiology - Nutrition

Asymptomatic Endemic Chlamydia pecorum Infections Reduce Growth Rates in Calves by up to 48 Percent
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Author: Anil Poudel et al.

by Anil Poudel, Theodore H. Elsasser, Kh. Shamsur Rahman, Erfan U. Chowdhury, Bernhard Kaltenboeck

Intracellular Chlamydia (C.) bacteria cause in cattle some acute but rare diseases such as abortion, sporadic bovine encephalomyelitis, kerato-conjunctivitis, pneumonia, enteritis and polyarthritis. More frequent, essentially ubiquitous worldwide, are low-level, asymptomatic chlamydial infections in cattle. We investigated the impact of these naturally acquired infections in a cohort of 51 female Holstein and Jersey calves from birth to 15 weeks of age. In biweekly sampling, we measured blood/plasma markers of health and infection and analyzed their association with clinical appearance and growth in dependence of chlamydial infection intensity as determined by mucosal chlamydial burden or contemporaneous anti-chlamydial plasma IgM. Chlamydia 23S rRNA gene PCR and ompA genotyping identified only C. pecorum (strains 1710S, Maeda, and novel strain Smith3v8) in conjunctival and vaginal swabs. All calves acquired the infection but remained clinically asymptomatic. High chlamydial infection associated with reduction of body weight gains by up to 48% and increased conjunctival reddening (P<10-4). Simultaneously decreased plasma albumin and increased globulin (P<10-4) suggested liver injury by inflammatory mediators as mechanisms for the growth inhibition. This was confirmed by the reduction of plasma insulin like growth factor-1 at high chlamydial infection intensity (P<10-4). High anti-C. pecorum IgM associated eight weeks later with 66% increased growth (P?=?0.027), indicating a potential for immune protection from C. pecorum-mediated growth depression. The worldwide prevalence of chlamydiae in livestock and their high susceptibility to common feed-additive antibiotics suggests the possibility that suppression of chlamydial infections may be a major contributor to the growth promoting effect of feed-additive antibiotics.