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Farm Animal Practice
Abortion in sheep 1. Investigation and principal causes
  1. Rebecca Mearns

    Rebecca Mearns graduated from Cambridge in 1998, and spent three years in mixed practice before undertaking a placement with Voluntary Service Overseas as a vet for the Malawi Government. On her return to the UK, she continued in mixed practice in Cumbria, gaining the RCVS certificate in sheep health and production in 2004. Following two years as a veterinary investigation officer for the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) in Edinburgh, she now works for the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) at the Penrith regional laboratory.


ABORTION in sheep flocks is estimated to have a national annual incidence of 2 to 3 per cent, although some flocks may experience abortion storms involving large numbers of ewes. This article, the first of two on ovine abortion, discusses the priorities in the event of an outbreak, and reviews the diagnosis, and available options for control and prevention, of the most common infectious causes of abortion in the UK: namely, Chlamydophila abortus (the agent of enzootic abortion of ewes), Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter species. Together, these make up over 70 per cent of diagnoses based on submissions of abortion material at veterinary disease surveillance centres throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Part 2, to be published in the next issue, will discuss other common infectious causes, as well as some exotic diseases that pose an abortion risk to UK flocks.

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