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Efficacy of a single dose of oral antibiotic given within two hours of birth in preventing watery mouth disease and illthrift in colostrum-deficient lambs
  1. J. C. Hodgson, BSc, PhD1,
  2. J. Brebner, BSc, PhD1 and
  3. I. J. Mckendrick, BSc, PhD2
  1. 1 Moredun Research Institute, International Research Centre, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 OPZ
  2. 2 Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, Kings Buildings (JCMB), Edinburgh EH9 3JZ


An antibiotic with a product licence limited to the treatment and control of infectious bacterial enteritis associated with Escherichia coli in piglets was tested for its ability to control watery mouth disease in neonatal lambs. Three groups of lambs were kept in conditions commonly encountered in intensive lambing systems, where high levels of environmental bacterial contamination may be expected. They were allocated at birth to: a control group (group 1) consisting of 18 colostrum-deprived lambs; group 2, consisting of 17 lambs given one feed of colostrum when they were two hours old; and group 3, consisting of 18 colostrumdeprived lambs given spectinomycin orally when they were two hours old. Nine group 1 lambs became diseased and were killed for humane reasons. Blood biochemical changes included hyperglycaemia followed by hypoglycaemia, lactacidaemia, hypoproteinaemia and metabolic acidosis, and postmortem examination of the diseased lambs showed signs consistent with endotoxaemia and a clinical diagnosis of watery mouth disease. Coliforms were isolated from the blood of all group 1 lambs and from half the lambs in groups 2 and 3, but endotoxaemia and watery mouth disease occurred only in group 1 lambs. The results for groups 2 and 3 showed that neither colostrum nor antibiotic at the rates and frequency used prevented bacteraemia, although consecutive samples were positive only on three occasions. Group 3 lambs consistently grew more rapidly than the surviving group 1 lambs and as rapidly as group 2 lambs. There was no evidence that male lambs were more prone to watery mouth disease than female lambs. The results indicated that the antibiotic spectinomycin did not induce endotoxaemia during low-grade bacteraemia and that a single oral dose given within two hours of birth protected colostrum-deprived lambs delivered into a contaminated indoor environment against watery mouth disease.

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