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"The cows died and we had no idea why," said farmer Tage Lausten to the Danish Farming News, seven years ago.
Lausten felt powerless and did not know what to do when many of his cows contracted pneumonia and arthritis.
Lausten - Veterinarian - Time - Cows - Bacterium
What Lausten and the veterinarian did not know at that time was that the cows had been infected with the bacterium Mycoplasma bovis. Since then, at least 120 herds have had similar disease outbreaks with large consequences for animal welfare and economic losses for the affected farmers in Denmark.
Our research shows that a relatively cheap and easy laboratory test can identify whether diseased cows in a herd are likely infected with the Mycoplasma bovis bacteria. This is done by measuring the amount of antibodies in the blood and milk of a group of cows.
Test - Time - Course - Disease - Interpretation
But the test needs to be conducted at the right time relative to the course of the disease, and correct interpretation of the test results requires knowledge of the disease.
When cows become infected with bacteria or viruses, the immune system begins to fight the infection. Certain blood cells produce antibodies that help fight the infection.
Cells - Infection - Cow - Mechanism - Vaccines
These cells remember and recognise the infection and react quickly if the cow becomes re-infected. It is the same mechanism that is used in many vaccines.
For example, when a person gets vaccinated against tetanus, the amount of antibodies against the tetanus bacteria subsequently increases in the blood. Antibody responses can therefore also be used to provide a diagnosis for humans – or cows – by measuring the amount of antibodies against specific bacteria.
Types - Tests - Antibody - Tests - Tools
These types of tests are often called antibody tests and they are common tools used for diagnosing diseases in both animals and people.
The Mycoplasma bovis bacterium is rather special. It can influence the immune system so that it does not function so well.
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