Veterinary experts are encouraging sheep farmers to continue vaccinating sheep against Ovine Enzootic Abortion (OEA), despite emerging evidence that vaccines used in the UK could themselves cause abortions.

Veterinary experts are encouraging sheep farmers to continue vaccinating sheep against Ovine Enzootic Abortion (OEA), despite emerging evidence that vaccines used in the UK could themselves cause abortions.

A ewe and lambs at Moredun, EdinburghThe advice follows the discovery by Moredun scientists, who identified the abortion risk associated with vaccines used to control OEA. However, representatives of the institute have issued statements advising that vaccination should continue, due to the greater risk posed by non-vaccination.

In Autumn 2009 the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh received Chlamydophila abortus samples that had been submitted to Scottish Agricultural College Veterinary Investigation (SAC VI) centres across Scotland during the lambing period. SAC VI staff suspected the cause of abortions was chlamydial infection. Moredun scientists confirmed that 35 of the 40 placental samples contained C. abortus organisms and also found that 14 of the 35 positive samples were from vaccinated flocks.

Further tests revealed that five of the 14 samples contained DNA only present in the vaccinal strain. Moredun scientists concluded that the bacteria were present in large enough numbers to be the probable cause of abortion.

Professor Julie FitzpatrickDespite this, Julie Fitzpatrick, scientific director of Moredun has stated that farmers should continue to use the vaccines.

Professor Fitzpatrick said: “Although our findings are important, our message to farmers about controlling enzootic abortion on their farms remains the same. We would encourage farmers who have a vaccination strategy for enzootic abortion on their farms to continue vaccinating, as this is the most effective way to safeguard their sheep from disease.”

“We strongly recommend that farmers work with their vets and local VI centres and continue to investigate the cause of any abortions they may have on their farms. If farmers receive a positive C. abortus result from a vaccinated ewe which has aborted, we would encourage them to work with their vet and contact the vaccine provider who will investigate the situation.”

Further details are available in this week’s Veterinary Times (Vol.40, No.20)

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