bovine respiratory syncytial virus infection
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IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- bovine respiratory syncytial virus infection
International Common Names
- English: atypical bovine interstitial pneumonia; bovine respiratory syncytial virus, brsv; enzootic calf pneumonia; shipping fever; shipping fever of cattle
OverviewTop of page
Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) was first isolated during a disease outbreak in Switzerland in 1970 (van Vuuren, 1994). BRSV is an important pathogen in cattle populations because it is a viral component of the bovine respiratory disease complex, and it causes acute viral pneumonia in calves and yearlings (Radostits et al., 1994). When an animal becomes infected with BRSV, mild respiratory signs including coughing, excessive salivation, lacrimation, nasal discharge and decreased food consumption may occur. If the respiratory disease is not recognised and treated promptly, it can progress rapidly to severe clinical signs such as fever, dyspnea, submandibular oedema, extreme respiratory distress, and death. When a herd outbreak occurs, morbidity rates are high. Although mortality rates vary, they usually are less than 20%. Disease treatments are aimed at controlling secondary bacterial pathogens, because mortality in BRSV-infected cattle is usually due to secondary bacterial pneumonia (Baker, 1993a). Clinical disease associated with BRSV infection most often occurs in calves from 2 to 6 months of age (van der Poel et al., 1994), although fatal disease can occur in adult animals that are naive or have weak immunity (Ellis et al., 1996).
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Although cattle are by far the most common reservoir for BRSV, this virus has also been diagnosed in sheep, goats and wild ruminants. BRSV has been associated with rhinitis in sheep. Studies have shown that sheep can be infected experimentally with BRSV, but it is not known whether the sheep or goat respiratory syncytial viruses have the ability to cause disease in cattle. Although humans are not susceptible to BRSV, human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) has been experimentally shown to cause a mild respiratory disease in calves (Baker and Frey, 1985).
DistributionTop of page
Although seroprevalence has been studied more in some countries than in others, BRSV is thought to be worldwide in distribution, many countries having a high number of seropositive cattle (Baker et al., 1997). While the number of seropositive animals is high, the reported incidence rate of respiratory disease is much lower because many infections are clinically non-apparent. BRSV has been isolated from numerous countries including the USA, Austria, Japan, Australia, North Africa and many countries in Europe (Wellemans, 1990).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
PathologyTop of page
The pathological changes associated with BRSV are usually restricted to the respiratory tract. Necrotizing bronchiolitis as well as bronchioloitis obliterans are characteristic lesions (van Vuuren, 1994). The virus infects ciliated and non-ciliated epithelial cells of the airways. BRSV can also infect the alveolar epithelium, leading to interstitial pneumonia. The lungs will appear emphysematous and have an increased volume. Lobular bronchopneumonia may be evident in the apical and cranial lobes. Large ecchymotic haemorrhages and emphysematous bullae are found within the pleura (Wellemans, 1990). The cranioventral lung lobes usually contain the characteristic multi-nucleated syncytial cells. Eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies are sometimes visible within these cells (Baker and Frey, 1985). The diaphragmatic lobes may have distended septa and may be severely oedematous and emphysematous. A crepitatious swelling may be present in the shoulder, neck and back, and petechia may also be seen.
DiagnosisTop of page
While the clinical signs may suggest a BRSV infection, a definitive diagnosis is possible only with laboratory diagnostic aids (Baker et al., 1997). These findings include isolation of BRSV, detection of viral antigen, and demonstration of a seroconversion in diseased animals.
Viral isolations can be performed using nasal swabs, but presence of the virus in nasal mucous is of short duration. Laboratory specimens must be collected at the onset of the disease, although this may be difficult because clinical signs are frequently mild or undetectable during this time. Isolation of the virus in cell culture is both arduous and time-consuming, requiring 20-50 days (Wellemans, 1990).
Viral antigen can be detected in nasal mucus and lung specimens. A direct immunofluorescence (IF) test using monospecific hyperimmune serum marked with fluorescein isothiocyanate is frequently used. Small, round cells in which the fluorescence is confined to the cytoplasm will be detected in the nasopharyngeal specimens from BRSV-infected animals.
Paired sera can be used to test for convalescent seroconversion (Baker, 1993b). The initial specimen must be collected shortly after exposure to the virus, but if the clinical signs are mild, detection of BRSV may be difficult.
Serologic assays that have been used to detect antibodies to BRSV include the virus neutralization test, complement fixation and enzyme-linked immunosorbant assays (Ellis, 2013).
With the advent of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and, to a lesser extent, enzyme immunoassay, serological testing has been superseded by rapid virus/antigen detection methods, notably PCR, in many laboratories (Ellis, 2013).
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Digestive Signs / Decreased amount of stools, absent faeces, constipation||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Digestive Signs / Diarrhoea||Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf||Sign|
|Digestive Signs / Excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, ptyalism||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Digestive Signs / Tongue protrusion||Sign|
|General Signs / Cyanosis, blue skin or membranes||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Decreased, absent thirst, hypodipsia, adipsia||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Dehydration||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Exercise intolerance, tires easily||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Head, face, ears, jaw, nose, nasal, swelling, mass||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration||Sign|
|General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Lymphadenopathy, swelling, mass or enlarged lymph nodes||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Petechiae or ecchymoses, bruises, ecchymosis||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Reluctant to move, refusal to move||Sign|
|General Signs / Stiffness or extended neck||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Underweight, poor condition, thin, emaciated, unthriftiness, ill thrift||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|General Signs / Weight loss||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Musculoskeletal Signs / Back or thoracic crepitation, crepitus chest, ribs||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Musculoskeletal Signs / Head or neck crepitation, crepitus||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Ophthalmology Signs / Conjunctival, scleral, injection, abnormal vasculature||Sign|
|Ophthalmology Signs / Conjunctival, scleral, redness||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Ophthalmology Signs / Lacrimation, tearing, serous ocular discharge, watery eyes||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Ophthalmology Signs / Purulent discharge from eye||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Pain / Discomfort Signs / Pain, chest, thorax, ribs, sternum||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Reproductive Signs / Abortion or weak newborns, stillbirth||Cattle & Buffaloes:Heifer,Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow||Sign|
|Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production||Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Abnormal lung or pleural sounds, rales, crackles, wheezes, friction rubs||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Coughing, coughs||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Dull areas on percussion of chest, thorax||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Dullness on percussion sinus||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Mucoid nasal discharge, serous, watery||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages,Sheep & Goats:All Stages||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Ping on percussion of chest, thorax||Sign|
|Respiratory Signs / Purulent nasal discharge||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages,Sheep & Goats:All Stages||Sign|
|Skin / Integumentary Signs / Rough hair coat, dull, standing on end||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin edema||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
|Skin / Integumentary Signs / Subcutaneous crepitation, skin emphysema||Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages||Sign|
Disease CourseTop of page
The disease course of BRSV in calves can usually be divided into two phases. The first phase is often associated with mild respiratory signs such as cough, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, lacrimation and a body temperature of 40-42.2°C (Baker, 1993b). These animals may become anorectic, mildly depressed, and have an increased respiratory rate. The animals will then appear to recover for varying periods of time. When the second phase of the disease sets in, signs of emphysema and dyspnea are more pronounced, sometimes accompanied by open-mouthed breathing and discomfort. The animals may suffer from bouts of dry coughs. Increased bronchial and broncho-vesicular sounds and fine crackles can be heard upon auscultation of the lungs. The body temperature of the animal will usually be normal at this time and nasal discharge will be minimal. Transient diarrhoea may be observed, but diarrhoea may be followed by constipation as the animal becomes dehydrated. Subcutaneous emphysema may be palpable at the shoulders and back. Because of severe dyspnea and abdominal breathing, calves may be unable to drink. Inter-mandibular oedema also has been reported. Although the mortality can be as high as 20%, cattle that survive the disease will usually recover within a few days to two weeks. Secondary bacterial pneumonia frequently occurs, suggesting that BRSV may suppress the immune system, as do other viruses involved in bovine respiratory disease complex (Baker et al., 1997). In 6-week-old calves, a bacterial superinfection may occur, but there are few to no emphysematous lesions. Among the most common symptoms in this age group are cough, high fever and serous or mucopurulent nasal discharge (Wellemans, 1990).
EpidemiologyTop of page
BRSV spreads through a herd of cattle after an infected animal has been introduced. While there is no proven carrier state of this disease, the possibility remains that one exists. Sheep and goats can become infected by BRSV, but the epidemiology of the virus in small ruminants is not well documented. It is possible that humans involved in animal handling and care, especially veterinarians, can transmit BRSV among herds. After introduction of BRSV, the infection spreads rapidly within the herd and to neighbouring herds. BRSV manifests itself as a large outbreak of acute respiratory signs in a population of animals and affects both beef and dairy cattle. In the Northern Hemisphere, the most severe outbreaks of disease occur in autumn and winter due to harsh weather, close confinement of animals and lower levels of protective antibodies during these seasons (van der Poel et al., 1999; Hudson and Grotelueschen, 2000). Although disease outbreaks are more common in the autumn and winter, BRSV outbreaks may occur during any season.
The ability of BRSV to spread rapidly among cattle is due to transmission via aerosols and droplets of respiratory tract excretions. The routes by which an animal becomes infected are thought to be inhalation and ingestion. If an animal has a high antibody titre to BRSV, the virus can still replicate and be excreted, but clinical signs are usually mild or non-apparent. The stress associated with shipping and handling of animals may also play an important role in the severity of clinical signs (Fenner et al., 1993). It is important to bear in mind that BRSV is just one of the many predisposing factors and disease agents that contributes to the bovine respiratory disease complex.
Sarmiento-Silva et al. (2012) review the epidemiology and molecular epidemiology of BRSV worldwide and highlight the importance of viral evolution in virus transmission.
Impact: EconomicTop of page
The economic importance and impact of disease due to BRSV is difficult to assess because it can occur simultaneously with a number of pathogens. In combination with other pathogens, BRSV contributes to both bovine respiratory disease complex and bacterial pneumonia, both of which are economically devastating diseases. Economic losses include death of animals (e.g., 50% of all calf mortalities may be due to bacterial pneumonia) and decreased productivity (e.g., 7.5% reduction in weight gain). The long-term effects on the herd, such as increased morbidity and decreased production and performance may account for the largest economic losses (Radostits et al., 1994).
Zoonoses and Food SafetyTop of page
There are no known zoonotic or food safety risks associated with BRSV.
Disease TreatmentTop of page
Because of the secondary bacterial infections that are commonly associated with BRSV, anti-bacterial therapy is usually employed. A broad-spectrum antibiotic that will maintain prolonged levels in tissues is the most advantageous. Sustained-release sulfonamide boluses and long-acting tetracycline are both appropriate choices. Favourable results from corticosteroid therapy have been reported sometimes, but because of their immunosuppressive effects, corticosteroids cannot be recommended to treat undifferentiated bovine respiratory disease. Corticosteroid therapy may be a consideration in cattle that have severe signs of dyspnea in association with BRSV infection. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not cause immunosuppression, and their use has been recommended to reduce body temperature and the severity of other clinical signs. Ribivarin, an antiviral drug, is commonly used against HRSV, but no antiviral drugs are approved currently for the treatment of BRSV. The cost of Ribivarin makes it impractical to use in veterinary practice. Supportive therapy, including administration of fluids, is the most important component in the treatment of BRSV (Baker et al., 1997).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
As with most respiratory diseases in cattle, good management practices can help to control the spread of BRSV and the animals’ susceptibility to infection. Decreasing herd contact with external contamination and minimising exposure of herds to new pathogens are examples of ways to reduce the risk of infection (Dutil, 1999). Other examples of ways to decrease infection rate are disinfection of areas where cattle are housed and vaccination of herds (Ichijo et al., 1999). In the calf, passive immunity does not prevent infection with BRSV (Baker and Frey, 1985). However, it can decrease the severity of disease.
There are several commercially available vaccines to combat BRSV, most of them as combination vaccine with other antigens related to the bovine respiratory disease complex. A variety of intranasal and parenteral modified-live and inactivated vaccines have proven to be efficacious in robust challenge models (Brodersen, 2010).
The development of safe and effective BRSV vaccines has been hampered by the need to induce protective immunity within the first months of life, at a time when maternal antibodies can pose an obstacle to successful vaccination (Larsen et al., 2001; Sluijs et al., 2010) and the observation that vaccination can exacerbate BRSV disease (Schreiber et al., 2000; Antonis et al., 2003). A major focus of applied vaccine research today is the use of vaccines in young BRSV antibody-positive calves (Ellis et al., 2010).
ReferencesTop of page
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