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Case Report

Abortions in sheep associated with Arcobacter skirrowii infection

Gareth F. Bath, Rhoda Leask, Kenneth P. Pettey, Debra J. Coetzee

Journal of the South African Veterinary Association; Vol 84, No 1 (2013), 4 pages. doi: 10.4102/jsava.v84i1.952

Submitted: 02 November 2012
Published:  30 September 2013


The history, circumstances, clinical signs, post mortem lesions, morbidity, mortality and laboratory findings are described in an abortion storm in sheep that occurred in Mpumalanga, South Africa, associated with infection with Arcobacter skirrowii. Altogether, about 200 Suffolk Down ewes lost 60 lambs in late pregnancy or at term. Although only three foetuses were submitted for investigation, two had signs consistent with a diagnosis of A. skirrowii infection and the organism was isolated from the placentas of both specimens. No abortions had occurred in previous years, or have subsequently. There were no animal introductions prior to the outbreak that could have indicated a source of infection. One stillborn lamb submitted subsequently had lesions consistent with dystocia, and the history and circumstantial evidence indicated that dystocia had been a factor in several more losses. No ewes or rams had shown signs of diarrhoea or other diseases associated with A. skirrowii infection. Twenty-two faecal, preputial and vaginal swab specimens taken from six rams and 13 ewes after the abortion event were all negative for A. skirrowii. This is the first report of abortions in sheep associated with A. skirrowiiin South Africa. Because the genus Arcobacter is similar to Campylobacter, it is possible that infection has gone unrecognised in the past. Veterinarians and laboratories should take note and include this genus in the list of potential abortifacient organisms. The possible role of Arcobacter species in other diseases like enteritis and mastitis, as well as the potential role as a zoonosis, must be borne in mind.

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Author affiliations

Gareth F. Bath, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Rhoda Leask, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Kenneth P. Pettey, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Debra J. Coetzee, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Arcobacter, skirrowii, abortions, perinatal mortality, sheep.


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ISSN: 1019-9128 (print) | ISSN: 2224-9435 (online)

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