Faeces and, or, paired sera were collected from cows in six dairy herds with classical winter dysentery. Similar samples were collected from cows in three other dairy herds experiencing non-haemorrhagic diarrhoea during the survey period. Coronavirus was the only enteric pathogen identified by immune electron microscopy (IEM) in all six outbreaks, occurring in 26 of 29 (90 per cent) of the affected cows and in one of 11 normal cows from the same herds. Nineteen of 26 affected cows (73 per cent) developed greater than four-fold increases in neutralising antibody titres to the Mebus strain of bovine coronavirus, compared with two of eight normal cows in the same herds. No cows showed greater than four-fold increases in antibody titres to bovine virus diarrhoea virus. None of the cows from the three herds with non-haemorrhagic diarrhoea shed coronavirus in faeces detectable by IEM or developed greater than two-fold rises in coronavirus antibody titres in paired sera. No enteric pathogens were identified in two of the herds. However, two cows in the third herd shed a group B rotavirus detected by IEM. These findings provide additional evidence for a possible role for bovine coronavirus in the aetiology of winter dysentery. Furthermore, this is the first report of a group B rotavirus associated with diarrhoea in adult cattle.
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