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Endogenous transplacental transmission, which occurs during pregnancy as the result of reactivation of a latent infection in the dam, is the main mechanism of propagation of Neospora caninum within cattle herds. However, the importance of this propagation mechanism has not yet been evaluated in relation to ovine neosporosis. In this study, involving three generations of ewes naturally infected by N. caninum, we demonstrated that endogenous transplacental transmission may also be highly efficient in the ovine host since transmission of infection occurred in 96.6% of gestations and the congenital infection rate ranged between 66.7 and 93%. Nevertheless, parasite burdens decreased gradually in consecutive generations. Reactivation of latent infections had a strong impact on the pregnancy outcome, with high mortality rates recorded in the offspring of the two first generations of ewes (21.4-46.1%). Histological examination of the brain revealed that all aborted foetuses had characteristic lesions of neosporosis (necrotic glial foci) and a few parasite cysts, whereas most stillborn and newborn lambs that died shortly after birth had non-specific lesions (mild glial foci without necrosis) and parasite cysts were more frequent. Microsatellite analysis revealed scarce genetic variability in the N. caninum population, in accordance with a scenario in which infections were of a single origin and were exclusively maintained by clonal propagation through endogenous transplacental transmission.
González-Warleta, M., Castro-Hermida, J. A., Calvo, C., Pérez, V., Gutiérrez-Expósito, D., Regidor-Cerrillo, J., … Mezo, M. (2018). Endogenous transplacental transmission of Neospora caninum during successive pregnancies across three generations of naturally infected sheep 11 Medical and Health Sciences 1108 Medical Microbiology. Veterinary Research, 49(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13567-018-0601-3