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Acute phase toxoplasma abortions in sheep
  1. M. R. Owen, PhD, BSc, MRCVS1,
  2. M. J. Clarkson, PhD, DVSc, BSc, DSHP, MRCVS2 and
  3. A. J. Trees, PhD, BVM&S, MRCVS1
  1. 1 Department of Veterinary Parasitology, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine/Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Pembroke Place, Liverpool L3 5QA
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Science and Animal Husbandry, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Liverpool, Leahurst, Chester High Road, Neston, South Wirral L64 7TE


Within 13 days of the experimental infection of 15 oestrussynchronised ewes with 2000 sporulated oocysts of Toxoplasma gondii at 80 to 90 days of gestation 11 had aborted. The infection induced pyrexia and specific antibody in all the ewes. One ewe resorbed its fetus, 11 ewes aborted and three delivered, at full term, live congenitally infected lambs whose pre-colostral serum was antibody-positive. Tissues from the aborted fetuses and placentae from the live lambs were examined for toxoplasma infection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the B1 gene and by mouse inoculation. The live lambs were all shown to be infected by both methods, but there was no evidence of infection in any of the tissues from the acute phase abortions, suggesting that these fatalities occurred before the placenta or the fetus had been invaded by T gondii. Such toxoplasma-induced, acutephase abortions are likely to be impossible to diagnose from fetal tissues. These results have implications not only for the diagnosis of naturally occurring ovine abortions but also for the understanding of the pathogenesis of toxoplasma-induced abortion.

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