Update on bovine Ureaplasma submissions

Andrew Brooks     

Animal Health Laboratory, University of Guelph, ON

AHL Newsletter 2019;23(4):7-8.

Bovine submissions to the AHL that have Ureaplasma identified as an etiologic agent are becoming more frequent. The majority of submissions are late term (3rd trimester) abortions and stillbirths. The diagnostic lesions in Ureaplasma abortion or stillbirth typically include placentitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis and arthritis. In 2019, approximately 30% of the Ureaplasma abortions included arthritis lesions in the fetus. Affected joints are often enlarged and have prominent erosion of the articular cartilage, turbid exudate in the joint space, and hyperplasia of the synovium (Fig. 1). One or multiple joints may be involved such as the carpus, hip, stifle, shoulder, elbow or atlanto-occipital joints. Nearly one third of Ureaplasma abortion submissions include a history of embryo transfer or in vitro fertilization. Ureaplasma is also sporadically cultured along with Mycoplasma bovis from the lungs of calves with pneumonia.

Since 2019, detection of Ureaplasma infection is mostly being done by PCR rather than culture. Diagnosis of Ureaplasma abortion can be made by a positive PCR result or isolation of the organism, in conjunction with compatible lesions in the fetus and placenta. Suitable samples for detecting Ureaplasma infection in abortion cases include placenta, lung, stomach content, and tissue or exudate from arthritic fetal joints. Please contact the AHL if you have any questions about Ureaplasma or sample or test selection for bovine abortion submissions. Helpful guidelines are also published in the AHL User’s Guide and sample collection templates are available from the Ontario Animal Health Network.  

Ureaplasma diagnoses in AHL bovine submissions

  Enlarged carpal joint (image A, top leg) with severe arthritis (image B) in a bovine fetus due to Ureaplasma

Figure 1. Enlarged carpal joint (image A, top leg) with severe arthritis (image B) in a bovine fetus due to Ureaplasma