Background: Neosporosis caused by the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum, is an economically important cause of abortion, stillbirth, low milk yield, reduced weight gain and premature culling in cattle. Consequently, a seroepidemiological study of N. caninum antibodies was conducted in England with 29,782 samples of blood taken from 15,736 cattle from 114 herds visited on three occasions at yearly intervals. Herds were categorised into lower (< 10%) and higher (≥ 10%) median herd seroprevalence. Hierarchical models were run to investigate associations between the sample to positive (S/P) ratio and herd and cattle factors. Results: Ninety-four percent of herds had at least one seropositive cow; 12.9% of adult cattle had at least one seropositive test. Approximately 90% of herds were seropositive at all visits; 9 herds (8%) changed serological status between visits. The median N. caninum seroprevalence in positive herds was 10% (range 0.4% to 58.8%). There was a positive association between the serostatus of offspring and dams that were ever seropositive. In the hierarchical model of low seroprevalence herds there was no significant association between S/P ratio and cattle age. There was a significantly lower S/P ratio in cattle in herds that were totally restocked after the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001 compared with those from continuously stocked herds and cattle purchased into these herds had a higher S/P ratio than homebred cattle. In the model of high seroprevalence herds the S/P ratio increased with cattle age, but was not associated with restocking or cattle origin. Conclusion: There were no strong temporal changes in herd seroprevalence of N. caninum but 90% of herds had some seropositive cattle over this time period. Vertical transmission from seropositive dams appeared to occur in all herds. In herds with a high seroprevalence the increasing S/P ratio in 2-4 year old cattle is suggestive of exposure to N. caninum: horizontal transmission between adult cattle, infection from a local source or recrudescence and abortions. Between-herd movements of infected cattle enhance the spread of N. caninum, particularly into low seroprevalence herds. Some restocked herds had little exposure to N. caninum, while in others infection had spread in the time since restocking.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was funded by BBSRC (grant number BBS/B/04854). We acknowledge financial support from DEFRA (grant number SE3026) for collection of the samples. We are grateful for the active contribution of all the farmers, and the authors would like to thank all the technicians who helped with data collection and ELISA testing.
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