Reduced Weight Gain Due to Subclinical Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Formerly Ehrlichia phagocytophila) Infection
Tick-borne fever (TBF) is caused by the rickettsia Anaplasma phagocytophilum (formerly Ehrlichia phagocytophila) and is a common disease in sheep in areas of Norway infested by Ixodes ricinus ticks. TBF can cause both direct and indirect losses to sheep kept on tick-infested pastures. In the present work we studied a sheep flock of 26 ewes and 50 lambs on pasture from May until September. No cases of TBF had earlier been observed on this pasture. Blood samples from lambs with a reduced weekly weight gain were collected and analysed for A. phagocytophilum infection by blood smear examination. In addition, at the end of the study, sera from all lambs were analysed by an indirect fluorescent antibody assay (IFA) to determine the antibody titre to E. equi. No clinical signs of tick-borne infections were observed, except in one lamb. However, 30 (60%) of the lambs grazing on this pasture became infected with A. phagocytophilum, and the infected lambs had a reduced weight gain (mean) of 3.8 kg compared with the uninfected lambs. The present study indicates that A. phagocytophilum infection may be widespread and contribute to considerable productivity losses even on pastures with no apparent tick infestation.
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