Winter 2012 Newsletter
BVD in White-tailed Deer in Indiana
By Kay Hagen
Reprinted with permission from Purdue Veterinary Medicine

White-tailed deerResearch underway in Dr. Roman Pogranichniy’s laboratory is linking a common cattle disease to white-tailed deer in Indiana. Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is an economically important disease that is estimated to cause between $760 million and $2.2 billion in losses each year for cattle producers in the United States. Both cattle producers and veterinarians have campaigned for the eradication of this disease.

“In order for a control program to be successful, the source of infection needs to be understood to prevent reintroduction to herds that are free of infection,” says Dr. Pogranichniy, Associate Professor of Virology in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.and Head of Serology/Virology in the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

He postulated that white-tailed deer could be a reservoir for the disease. So, in 2006, Dr. Pogranichniy, with cooperation from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, began collecting samples from white-tailed deer harvested by hunters. Indiana hunters are required to “check in” their deer at DNR-approved stations, and these check-in stations provided an ideal place to gather ear notch samples from the deer for further testing.

“One sample from a lymph node, and one ear notch from two different white-tailed deer were BVDV positive,” says Dr. Pogranichniy. From those samples he was able to determine that a small percentage of white-tailed deer in Indiana were infected with BVDV.

“White-tailed deer and cattle do share common pastures,” says Dr. Pogranichniy. So the next step was to determine if deer could transmit the virus to cattle.

A subsequent study showed that calves can be infected with BVDV from white-tailed deer. Dr. Pogranichniy says this underscores the importance of taking wild animals into account when creating disease prevention protocols.

“BVDV from wild deer can be transmitted to calves through oral or nasal pathways. These animals co-mingle because they may share the same pasture,” he says. These findings could be especially important to cattle producers with cows on pasture.

If a cow is infected with the virus during gestation, embryonic death, abortion and congenital defects can occur. Additionally, calves born to infected mothers may present with fever, discharge from the nose and eyes, profuse diarrhea and mucosal lesions.

But perhaps more importantly, says Dr. Pogranichniy, “Fetuses between 18 and 125 days of gestation that survive infection with BVDV invariably develop immune tolerance to the virus and are born persistently infected (PI). Persistently infected animals shed large amounts of virus during their lifetime and are the primary spreaders of the virus in the herd. Additionally, they do not respond to treatments for, or vaccinations against, BVDV. In ADDL, we established diagnostic assays to help veterinarians and producers diagnose BVD infection in cattle.

Dr. Pogranichniy is continuing his work with BVDV and is investigating management practices related to its prevention and control in Indiana.

Indiana ADDL, 406 S University St, West Lafayette, IN 47907. (765) 494-7440
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