21 December 2001

Now Ecoli ewe link

AS WELL as being associated with numerous livestock diseases, such as calf scour and mastitis, E coli has recently been implicated as a cause of abortion in ewes.

In a Vet Record article, vets describe an abortion outbreak in a 63-strong Suffolk ewe flock. Eight twin and triplet-bearing ewes aborted well developed lambs between 14 and five days before expected lambing date.

Ewes also went off their food and had diarrhoea and a dark red vaginal discharge, says the article.

Co-author of the paper, Jill Thomson, vet pathologist at SACs Vet Science Division, says although E coli abortion is uncommon, it is important for vets and producers to be aware it exists. "It is not routinely looked for, but causes sickness in ewes and also has public health implications."

Sheep abortions should be investigated to find the cause, advises Dr Thomson. "Many zoonotic infections cause abortion, so aborting ewes should always be isolated and dealt with hygienically. Wear gloves when handling aborted material and wash hands and clothing well.

"Dont leave aborted material where family members may come into contact with it. Bag it and dispose of it carefully or send it to a vet lab for examination."

For ewes which appear ill following abortion, seek vet advice, she adds. &#42