Campylobacter jejuni can cause miscarriage in pregnant sheep and cows. US researchers now found out that one particular strain of the bacteria is causing the problem as it is able to move from the rumen to the bloodstream and hence placenta.
On the website of ScienceDaily, Qijing Zhang from the Iowa State Universty College of Veterinary Medicine in the US, explains that this discovery could pave the way for new treatment options and possibly even a vaccine to help sheep and cattle producers fend off the bacteria.
Zhang said nearly all of the US cases of sheep abortion during the last 13 years caused by the bacteria arose from a particular strain of the bug, which was capable of moving from an animal's gut into its bloodstream and eventually into the placenta of a pregnant animal. Other strains of the bacteria didn't manifest the disease, so Zhang's team decided to find out what made the virulent strain different from the others. Then they found unique gene mutations that gave rise to the virulent property.
Zhang said identifying the features that make the strain so dangerous will pave the way toward new avenues for controlling the disease, including the potential for the development of a protective vaccine.
Campylobacter jejuni is also a major foodborne pathogen and a leading cause of enteritis in humans, responsible for 400–500 million cases of diarrhoea annually worldwide. In the United States alone, Campylobacter accounts for more than 800,000 cases of foodborne illnesses each year.
Emmy Koeleman studied Animal Sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She is the editor of Dairy Global and All About Feed.