Campylobacter spp. abortion in ruminants

Murray Hazlett, Đurđa Slavić

Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.

AHL Newsletter 2020;24(3):7.

Campylobacter spp. abortions in ruminants are relatively common in sheep, and sporadic in cattle and goats.  Since 2007, a total of 105 pathology abortion submissions were diagnosed as caused by Campylobacter spp. (Table 1), 91 of these being in sheep, 7 in goats and 7 in cattle (also 1 canine).  In sheep, 20 (22%) of Campylobacter spp. abortions were identified in conjunction with other pathogens, most commonly Coxiella burnetii (n=17), but also Chlamydia abortus and other miscellaneous pathogens  including Histophilus somni, Trueperella pyogenes and BVDV.  Concurrent infections were not identified in goats or cattle; however, case numbers were relatively small.

Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are leading causes of enteritis in humans and are associated with late-term abortions in sheep.  Both are commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract of sheep, and there is some evidence that certain tetracycline-resistant clones are often associated with sheep abortion in the USA.  A tetracycline-resistant clone has been identified in Ontario.  The use of tetracyclines in the feed or to mass medicate the ewe flock for the control of infectious abortion (e.g., if abortion due to Chlamydia abortus is suspected) may actually increase the incidence of tetracycline-resistant C. jejuni abortions.  For this reason, diagnostic investigation of ovine abortions should always be pursued to confirm the etiology and to implement appropriate control measures.

Similarly, Campylobacter fetus subsp. fetus is also a zoonotic disease, and is commensal in a wide range of animals, including sheep.   AHL


Table 1. AHL Pathology submissions with a diagnosis of Campylobacter spp. Abortion, 2007-2020.

Species C. coli C. jejuni C. fetus fetus Total Campylobacter Total abortions % Campylobacter
Ovine 3 46 42 92 480 18.96%
Caprine   7   7 329 2.13%
Bovine   4 3 7 1275 0.55%


1. Ertas HB et al. Isolation of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli from the gall bladder samples of sheep and identification by polymerase chain reaction. J Vet Med B, 2003:50; 294–297 (2003)
2. Slavić D et al. Tetracycline susceptibility of Campylobacter isolates causing ovine abortions in Ontario. AHL Newsletter, Volume 16, Number 2, June 2012.