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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Healthy Animals 35

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A healthy pig rests its snout on the back of another pig.

Research Briefs

The constant grazer. Year-round cattle grazing has benefits.

Vaccine victory. Test vaccines show promise against parasite of cattle.

Game on! Apparatus captures deer safely, effectively and with minimal trauma.

Here's the beef. Identifying DNA markers and traits.

Sheep shape. Sheep genes may yield productivity clues.

Beat the heat. Slick genes keep cattle cool.

Got milk? Protective proteins in dairy cattle.

Which little piggy ate roast beef? Scientists test body-fat measuring device on piglets.

Born to be wild. Island cattle are genetically distinct.

Issue 35, October 2008
About this Newsletter

Spotlight on Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is a costly disease that affects cattle and other ruminants. The virus has many nasty effects, including fever, diarrhea, respiratory and reproductive disease, abortion, birth defects and death. The national economic impact of the disease has not been assessed in the United States, although one document from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) estimates that acute BVDV could result in losses of $50 to $100 per cow.

At the National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Julia Ridpath is leading important research to help control BVDV and limit its devastating economic effects.

BVDV infections may be acute (intense, but short) or persistent--a characteristic that makes the virus particularly difficult to control. Cattle can develop persistent infections (PI) when exposed in utero within the first 125 days of gestation. Once born, they shed the virus, infecting other animals in the herd.

Some of the NADC studies are uncovering information that will be crucial for developing effective prevention strategies. One such study is exploring whether PI deer can serve as vectors for introducing BVDV into uninfectedcattle herds. Preliminary results show that cattle and deer have similar responses to the virus.

"We have shown that BVDV causes reproductive disease in deer that is similar to the reproductive disease seen in cattle following BVDV infection," Ridpath says. Identifying potential virus reservoirs in wildlife is a critical step toward preventing transmission to cattle.

Photo: Two scientists vaccinate cattle in pens.

Virologists Julia Ridpath and John Neill vaccinate calves against BVDV.

A related study has led to the discovery in pronghorn antelope and swine of viruses similar to those found in cattle and deer. Understanding the effects of these BVDV-like viruses and how they're transmitted could help scientists develop superior prevention and control techniques. For example, researchers could use that information to design more successful vaccines and diagnostic tests, Ridpath says.

Other NADC research is focusing on eliminating the disease after it's been introduced to a herd. Ridpath and her colleagues have designed improved disease models, using more virulent virus strains than existing models, for testing the efficacy of existing vaccines. Industry professionals have already begun testing vaccines with these models, as has APHIS.

The scientists are also comparing diagnostic test platforms for identifying PI animals.

"The goal is to provide producers with robust tests that are highly sensitive and specific," Ridpath says. She and her colleagues have found that ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays) are particularly robust. ELISA tests can detect the presence of antibodies and their targets--in this case, BVDV--within a sample.

All of these studies are contributing to a growing body of knowledge and tools that will help scientists and the cattle industry successfully combat this viral threat.

ARS scientists are clearly at the forefront of BVDV research, but they are not alone. Researchers from Oklahoma State University, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Washington State University, Texas A&M University, the University of California-Davis, South Dakota State University, and the Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute in Menangle, Australia have contributed to this work.

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For more information about ARS research on BVDV, contact Julia Ridpath or Cyril Gay, Leader of ARS National Program #103: Animal Health.


About This Newsletter

ARS Animal Health Research Laboratories

Healthy Animals Archive

Last Modified: 10/6/2008