In October 1998, two abortions associated with Coxiella burnetii occurred in a group of 34 pregnant ewes in the sheep flock belonging to INRA Tours-Nouzilly. The flock was kept in groups of approximately 40 ewes, which were housed together in the same accommodation. The prevalence of C burnetii infection in the groups was investigated by using ELISA and PCR tests, which revealed a high prevalence of C burnetii. The ewes were treated with oxytetracycline to reduce the shedding of C burnetii and to prevent further abortions. Nevertheless, five abortions attributed to C burnetii occurred in January and March 1999 in three groups of ewes, and 24 of the ewes still shed the bacteria into their vaginal tracts. In addition, a serological study was carried out during the first year of life of the female lambs born in 1999 and 2000; 12 per cent of 113 lambs born in 1999 were seropositive for C burnetii by ELISA, and half of the ELISA-positive lambs were born either to serologically positive ewes or to dams that excreted the pathogen into their vaginal tracts. However, all the 150 lambs born in 2000 were ELISA-negative, suggesting that the preventive measures undertaken had suppressed both the abortions and the shedding of C burnetii, and reduced the transmission of the agent.
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