Article Text

Microbiology of calf diarrhoea in southern Britain
  1. DJ Reynolds,
  2. JH Morgan,
  3. N Chanter,
  4. PW Jones,
  5. JC Bridger,
  6. TG Debney and
  7. KJ Bunch


Faeces samples from calves with diarrhoea in 45 outbreaks were examined for six enteropathogens. Rotavirus and coronavirus were detected by ELISA in 208 (42 per cent) and 69 (14 per cent) of 490 calves respectively; calici-like viruses were detected by electron microscopy in 14 of 132 calves (11 per cent). Cryptosporidium were detected in 106 of 465 (23 per cent), Salmonella species in 58 of 490 (12 per cent) and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli bearing the K99 adhesin (K99+ E coli) in nine of 310 calves (3 per cent). In the faeces of 20 per cent of calves with diarrhoea more than one enteropathogen was detected; in 31 per cent no enteropathogen was found. Faces samples from 385 healthy calves in the same outbreaks were also examined. There was a significant statistical association of disease with the presence of rotavirus, coronavirus, Cryptosporidium and Salmonella species (P less than 0.001). Healthy calves were not examined for calici-like viruses and the association of K99+ E coli with disease was not analysed because there were too few positive samples. Rotavirus infections were more common in dairy herds and single suckler beef herds whereas Salmonella infections were more often found in calf rearing units. Cryptosporidium were more common in single and multiple suckler beef herds. K99+ E coli were found in one dairy herd and one multiple suckler beef herd both with unhygienic calving accommodation. Variations in coronavirus detection among different farm types were not statistically significant. In this survey rotavirus was the most commonly detected agent in calf diarrhoea and Cryptosporidium were found in approximately one quarter of affected calves. Infection with Salmonella species was widespread, but K99+ E coli infections were less common in the United Kingdom than in other countries.

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