The occurrence of infectious keratoconjunctivitis (IKC) was assessed in alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra) in Grisons (Switzerland) from 1950 to 1999. The first IKC outbreaks were reported in the 1950's. Since then, the number of affected subpopulations constantly increased and, by 1999, IKC outbreaks were reported in 39 of 51 (77%) chamois sub-populations. From 1992-99, a total of 243 chamois which died of the consequences of IKC were recorded. The number of cases differed between years, and a distinct seasonal trend was observed. Infectious keratoconjunctivitis was more common during summer and autumn, with 48% of the cases recorded in August–October. Juveniles (<4 yr of age) were mostly represented. To verify the presence of Mycoplasma conjunctivae in chamois we analyzed conjunctival swabs taken from animals affected with IKC. Among a sample of 28 affected chamois, M. conjunctivae was identified 14 times (50%). An indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed to detect specific M. conjunctivae antibodies in sera of alpine chamois with IKC. We performed a serologic investigation to assess whether M. conjunctivae infection is self-maintained in the chamois population in Grisons. In subpopulations with IKC oubreaks, seroprevalence was low (8%). Seroprevalence was even lower in subpopulations with recent IKC outbreaks (3%). We concluded that the M. conjunctivae infection is not self-maintained in alpine chamois in Grisons. The agent may originate in domestic sheep living in proximity to chamois during summer. Control of IKC in chamois should consider immunoprophylaxis in sheep or limiting interspecific transmission of M. conjunctivae.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2