Stemming M. bovis outbreaks
A research team is studying mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) and its effects on bison, with the goal of stemming future outbreaks in both cattle and bison.
M. bovis plagues feedlot cattle, causing respiratory disease, including chronic pneumonia, along with ear infections and polyarthritis syndrome (CPPS). But bison are affected differently by the pathogen. A recent study by Dr. Pat Burrage of Burrage Veterinary Services found that the disease seems to spread through the bison’s whole body. Organs such as the uterus, heart and kidneys were affected in both young and mature bison.
Mature bison cows and bulls at pasture can suffer from the disease. And the pathogen is often the primary pathogen, while in cattle it often piggybacks on Respiratory Disease Complex, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine notes.
Infection and mortality rates are also much higher for bison than cattle. Burrage’s study, which looked at bison mortality, found M. bovis to be the most common cause of fatality – in fact 42 per cent of the 102 tested Alberta bison died from M. bovis. Her study also showed that many herds are affected and mortality rates often hit 25 to 30 per cent of mature bison. Surviving bison struggle with infertility and poor thrift afterwards.
“This wasn’t the first time M. bovis had shown to have an effect on bison, but the quantity of its effect surprised us,” said Burrage.
As a result of that study, funded by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), researchers are trying to pinpoint risk factors linked to the disease, and better understand how the pathogen affects bison.
Dr. Claire Windeyer of the University of Calgary is leading the project. Her team will look at genomic sequences, virulence traits and the epidemiology of the disease, with the goal of understanding the increase in mortality. By comparing cattle and bison strains, they’ll pinpoint the potential for inter-species transmission, along with other risk factors for both strains. Their research will also be used to help develop prevention strategies and vaccines for both species.
“Understanding how the pathogen affects both species is crucial, especially considering the devastating effects M. bovis can have once it enters a bison herd,” said Dr. Windeyer in a media release from ALMA. “Producers need this information and the right strategies need to be in place in order to deal with current outbreaks and prevent future ones.”
The media release from ALMA notes that bison and cattle are often in the same area, highlighting the importance of the research to both industries. If M. bovis spreads through Canadian bison herds, the industry could lose 13,000 bison, which would add up to about $33 million, the release states. Outbreaks in the cattle industry would lead to even larger losses.