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Concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens associated with fatal anaemia in cattle: haematology and blood chemistry


An outbreak of a fatal haemolytic anaemia in a dairy herd of cattle in Switzerland was shown to be associated with infections with five vector-borne pathogens, namely Anaplasma marginale, A. phagocytophilum, Babesia bigemina, a Theileria spp belonging to the buffeli/sergenti/orientalis complex and haemotrophic Mycoplasma spp. The latter three had not been documented before this outbreak in Switzerland. To characterise the haematological and blood chemical changes in these unique cows, packed cell volume was determined in all 286 blood samples, blood smears, and complete haematology were performed from 285 and 173 blood samples, respectively, and biochemical parameters were assayed in 105 serum samples. Regenerative anaemia was the key sign of illness. Red blood cells of anaemic cattle were hypochromic and macrocytic. Anaemic animals had reduced platelet cell counts and increased total white cell counts. In addition, increased serum bilirubin, blood aspartate aminotransferase, gamma glutamyltransferase, glutamic dehydrogenase and blood urea nitrogen and decreased magnesium, calcium and albumin levels were found in anaemic cattle when compared to animals with normal packed cell volume. Most changes could not be attributed to a single infection. A. marginale seemed to be important in causing the outbreak, but co-infections may have aggravated the disease development and clinical signs. Thus, when encountering cattle with haemolytic anaemia, all of the mentioned pathogens should be included as differential diagnosis.

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The authors are indebted to E. Rogg, E. Schuler, Y. Bosshart, Ch. Brönnimann, U. Egger, B. Glaus, E. Grässli, M. Huder, B. Lange, T. Meili Prodan, M. Nussbaumer, J. Wälchli, B. Weibel, C. Wolfensberger and B. Wenger for excellent technical assistance. The authors also thank Drs. R. Perl and G. Regi (Gemeinschaftspraxis Perl, Regi und Iselin), and M. Mehli, Chur, Switzerland, for their efficient corporation. Laboratory work was performed using the logistics of the Center for Clinical Studies at the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Zurich. This work was supported in part by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, Bern, Switzerland and the Schweizerische Vereinigung für Wiederkäuermedizin (SVW), Switzerland. R.H.-L. is the recipient of a professorship by the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00B-102866).

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Correspondence to Regina Hofmann-Lehmann.

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Riond, B., Meli, M.L., Braun, U. et al. Concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens associated with fatal anaemia in cattle: haematology and blood chemistry. Comp Clin Pathol 17, 171–177 (2008).

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  • Vector-borne pathogens
  • Haemolytic anaemia
  • Haematology
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Cattle