Fifteen pregnant, bovine virus diarrhoea-mucosal disease (BVD-MD) antibody-free Jersey heifers were infected experimentally with a mixture of 10 cytopathic strains of BVD-MD virus isolated from cattle in Britain. Each cow was inoculated intramuscularly on gestation day 100 with a high or a low dose of virus grown in primary calf testis tissue cultures. None of the cows showed clinical signs of illness following exposure, but all had seroconverted within six weeks. Six fetuses, including one set of twins, died in utero following infection. Of these five were aborted between days 136 and 154; the sixth one was mummified and still retained at day 300. The remaining 10 fetuses survived to term, but all showed evidence of intrauterine growth retardation with or without gross malformation and/or dysmyelination of the central nervous system. Three were clinically affected with congenital nervous disease. Of the 10 liveborn fetuses, two had specific serum antibodies to BVD-MD. Non-cytopathic BVD-MD virus was recovered from all of the remaining eight. When non-immune cows become infected with BVD-MD virus in mid gestation: transplacental infection of the fetus will probably result; apart from the risk of fetal death, with or without abortion, there is a high probability of fetal mal-development which may not always be clinically obvious; the immunological competence of the fetus may be impaired; congenital infection is likely in a substantial proportion of liveborn calves. About one in 16 bovine fetuses in British herds are estimated to be at risk from BVD-MD virus infection.
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