Neosporosis is the infectious disease of animals caused by Neospora caninum (Neospora or N. caninum for short). Neospora is a protozoan parasite (i.e. a microscopic, unicellular parasite organism) that can invade, live and multiply inside animal cells. It is one of the most frequently diagnosed infectious causes of abortion in cattle worldwide.
The parasite is closely related to Toxoplasma gondii. Unlike T. gondii, which is an important infectious cause of abortion in sheep and goats, Neospora causes disease primarily in cattle and dogs. Another significant difference to Toxoplasma is that Neospora can cause repeat abortions in successive pregnancies and that the parasite is very effectively transmitted from an infected dam to its foetus.
Since its identification in the 1980s, Neospora has emerged as one of the most common infectious causes of abortion in cattle worldwide, resulting in significant economic losses and production inefficiency. Cattle may become infected by ingesting oocysts (parasite eggs) or by acquiring the parasite in the uterus from their mothers.
The video below from a 2012 episode of BBC Landward highlights how oocysts shed in the faeces of infected dogs can contaminate the environment and pose a risk to cattle:
Current interests and future aims:
Moredun is conducting research on Neospora parasites within the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (2016-2021) looking at developing new diagnostics to determine prevalence and to distinguish different abortifacients in abortion cases of ruminants.
BBSRC-Zoetis PhD studentship: Specific diagnostic tools for protozoan infection of ruminants.
This PhD studentship is conducted at the Moredun Research Institute in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh Veterinary School and focuses on the development of molecular tools for the discrimination of Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis species in pathology specimens from clinical cases. To achieve this, the PhD project will produce of species specific antibodies against recombinant proteins of protozoan parasites that can be used for the diagnosis of protozoan causes of abortions in ruminants. A second aim of the PhD is to develop a species specific PCR that can detect and distinguish common protozoan abortifacient of ruminants.
BMGF project, Supporting Evidence-Based Interventions (SEBI): Causes and extent of mortality of domestic ruminants in Tanzania.
Scientists at the Moredun Research Institute are working closely with colleagues at the University of Glasgow and colleagues from several organisations within Tanzania in order to determine the significance of Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Chlamydia as infectious causes of abortion in sheep, cattle and goats in Tanzania.
A news release with further information about this project can be found here.
AHDB funded PhD studentship entitled: Development of diagnostics for the detection of Neospora caninum infected carrier cattle.
The aim of this PhD project is to identify different stage specific antigens of the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum that are immunogenic, express them as recombinant proteins and to evaluate them for use in an ELISA that will be able to identify cattle persistently infected with Neospora caninum.
For further Information about Neosporisus please see Moredun Newssheet 7.4 - Control of Neosporosis in Cattle: