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From the mainland to Ireland – bovine besnoitiosis and its spread in Europe
  1. Gema Álvarez-García, DVM, PhD
  1. SaluVet, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid 28040, Spain. e-mail:

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BOVINE besnoitiosis is a chronic, debilitating disease characterised by both cutaneous and systemic manifestations with the possibility of severely affected animals dying (Fig 1). Economic losses are associated with sterility in bulls, the reduced value of the hides of affected animals, poor body condition, decreased milk production and occasionally abortions and deaths (Alvarez-García and others 2014b, Cortes and others 2014). It has been suggested that transmission mainly occurs through direct contact between cattle (Alvarez-Garcia and others 2013). Moreover, mechanical transmission of the causative agent, Besnoitia besnoiti, probably occurs through blood-sucking insects or from reusing syringes (Bigalke 1968).

FIG 1:

‘Elephant skin’ and alopecia in a bull severely infected with Besnoitia besnoitiPhotograph: J. Balado

This cattle disease gained the attention of veterinary health officials in Europe in 2010, and was considered as a re-emergent disease due to an increased number of cases as well as the geographical expansion of the disease (EFSA 2010, Alvarez-García and others 2013). From the initial foci in the Pyrenees and Alentejo in Portugal at the beginning of the 20th century (Besnoit and Robin 1912, Franco and Borges 1915) the disease has spread almost all over Spain, France and Portugal over the past two decades (Alzieu and others 2007, Fernandez-Garcia and others 2010, Gentile and others 2012, Waap and others 2014). Since then the disease has propagated from …

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