Neospora caninum infection is a common cause of bovine abortion. One method by which cattle can acquire infection is through ingestion of oocysts; however, this has not yet been proved to cause transplacental infection or abortion. In this study, 19 cows, pregnant between 70 and 176 days, were administered 1,500 to 115,000 oocysts through an esophageal tube. Seventeen of the cows became seropositive, indicating acquisition of infection, whereas 8 negative control cows remained seronegative (P < 0.001). Offspring were examined using serology, histology, immunohistochemistry, parasite isolation, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Six offspring were infected and 1 of them was aborted. The aborted fetus had typical lesions and positive immunohistochemistry and PCR for N. caninum. All 6 cows with infected offspring had continuously rising antibody titers, whereas 10 of 11 infected cows with uninfected offspring had falling titers after an early apex. The risk of transplacental transmission was increased by later exposure times during gestation and by the dose of oocysts (P < 0.01 for the 2 combined variables). The lowest dose of oocysts, when administered after the 160th day of gestation, caused transplacental infection in 1 of 2 animals. This study demonstrates that infection with N. caninum oocysts can cause transplacental transmission and abortion in cattle.
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