Pregnancy rates of beef cattle are not affected by Campylobacter fetus subsp. venerealis real-time PCR-positive breeding sires in New Zealand - Supplementary Information

Pregnancy rates of beef cattle are not affected by Campylobacter fetus subsp. venerealis real-time PCR-positive breeding sires in New Zealand - Supplementary Information
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS: Campylobacter fetus subspecies venerealis (C. fetus venerealis) is the causal agent of bovine genital campylobacteriosis, a venereal disease that is asymptomatic in bulls but responsible for reproductive wastage in female cattle. In New Zealand, a commercial real-time PCR assay was introduced in 2007 to identify the DNA of this pathogen in preputial scrapings; however, concerns were raised about the specificity of the test following anecdotal reports of a high number of test-positive bulls with no apparent relationship to reproductive performance. The objective of this study, therefore, was to examine the association between real-time PCR assay results from beef breeding bulls and pregnancy rates in beef herds using these bulls.

METHODS: Veterinarians from four veterinary practices selected beef cattle herds with relatively high and low pregnancy rates between December 2008 and February 2009. Preputial scrapings were collected from bulls used for mating in those herds. Samples were tested using the real-time PCR assay under consideration. Bivariable and multivariable analyses were used to assess the relationship between pregnancy rates in each mob (15-month-old heifers, 27-month-old heifers and mixed-age cows) and the percentage of real-time PCR-positive bulls in each mob.

RESULTS: Sixty-four (28.8%) of 222 bulls tested positive, 130 (58.6%) tested negative, and 28 (12.6%) returned an inconclusive result to the real-time PCR assay. The percentage of bulls testing real-time PCR-positive in these mobs was not associated with pregnancy rates (p=0.757) after controlling for mob, average body condition score of cows, cow to bull ratio, length of the mating period, and farm.

CONCLUSION: Real-time PCR assay results were not associated with pregnancy rates, suggesting that the specificity of the real-time PCR assay was too low to be used to reliably detect C. fetus venerealis. This study adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that C. fetus venerealis strains are either absent from, or present at clinically insignificant levels of endemicity among, beef breeding herds in New Zealand.

CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The real-time PCR assay that was assessed in this study should not be used for the detection of C. fetus venerealis in bulls or for investigations of low conception rates in cattle in New Zealand. During the course of this survey, sequencing analysis of an apparent C. fetus venerealis isolate from the intestines of a Friesian bull turned out to be Campylobacter hyointestinalis. As a consequence, this real-time PCR assay for C. fetus venerealis is no longer being offered by diagnostic laboratories in New Zealand.


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