Naturally acquired bovine besnoitiosis: disease frequency, risk and outcome in an endemically infected beef herd.
The recent spread of bovine besnoitiosis warrants further epidemiological investigations to improve the knowledge on disease development. Thus, a 4-year longitudinal open cohort study was conducted in the first German cattle herd naturally infected with Besnoitia besnoiti. At seven herd-visits between 2008 and 2012, fourteen breeding bulls (>1.5 years) and 131 females (>1 year) were examined clinically and serologically. In females, clinical and serological prevalences, incidence and remission rates were determined. In addition, the association of age, antibody levels and number of visible parasitic cysts with clinical and serological outcome was investigated. The seroprevalence (89.4%-100%) and serological incidence rate (140.5 per 100 animal-years) were considerably higher than the clinical prevalence (23.5%-36.6%) and clinical incidence rate (16.7 per 100 animal-years). Of 33 new clinical and 12 new serological cases, only 6.7% (3/45) attracted attention with clinical signs of acute bovine besnoitiosis. The apparent serological remission rate (1.9 per 100 animal-years) was considerably lower than the clinical remission rate (37.3 per 100 animal-years). A median cyst score of <1 and mean immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT) titre of ≤1,600 over the entire observation period was significantly associated with a negative clinical outcome at the end. Overall cyst score was not significantly associated with serological outcome and age had no significant influence on clinical and serological outcome. Within 4 years, there was a significant reduction in cyst scores and IFAT titres in the same animals, leading to eight clinically and serologically negative animals in the end. Two initially negative animals achieved clinical and apparent serological remission in about 2.5 years. In bulls, the time between herd entry and seroconversion was 7-30 months and the serological incidence rate was nearly identical to the rate in females (142.0 per 100 animal-years). This shows that a high B. besnoiti prevalence leads to infection of bulls within a short time period.