Combating Uterine Disease in Dairy Cattle

EU - Four European academic research groups, together with Pfizer Animal Health, have forged a new research consortium to combat uterine disease - a problem that costs the EU dairy industry about €1.4billion annually.
calendar icon 17 April 2012
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Pfizer Animal Health

Called the IPUD research project (Integrated systems approach for Preventing Uterine Disease in dairy cattle), the collaboration involves academic research groups at Swansea University, the University of Glasgow in the UK, the University of Veterinary Medicine of Hannover in Germany and INRA in France, and Pfizer Animal Health as industry partner.

The partnership, valued at €3.2 million, includes a grant awarded to the consortium by EMIDA ERA-Net – the European Commission’s body to improve science on emerging and major infectious diseases in livestock.

“The objective of the consortium approach is to bring together the best minds in the research institutes around Europe to address one of the most costly and neglected cattle diseases,” said Peter Jeffries, Group Director, Business Development and Global Alliances at Pfizer Animal Health.

The Consortium involves more than 12 researchers from highly recognised European research institutes.

Led by Martin Sheldon, Professor at the School of Medicine at Swansea University, UK, the group aims to learn more about the dynamics of uterine disease.

“This project aims to translate these novel strategies into potential products that limit the impact of uterine disease,” Martin Sheldon said.

“Bacterial infections of the uterus after parturition commonly cause uterine disease and infertility in dairy cattle, and these infections have a significant impact on the EU dairy industry due to infertility and mortality,” Prof. Sheldon said.

In addition to the discomfort for the animals, the infertility also means more replacements are needed for animals that do not conceive. “This can impact on the environment of course with more greenhouse gas emissions,” Prof. Sheldon added.

“By working together we hope to pursue a number of projects that could fulfil the unmet needs of the industry in relation to the control of uterine disease.”

“This is a multi-factorial approach designed to understand a lot more about the disease and pathogens involved, with the ultimate aim of finding a solution to combating it.”

Hans-Joachim Schuberth, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, said a particular aim of the consortium is to find out what happens when a pathogen colonises the uterus.

“By understanding what happens within the immune system – which is something we don’t have a clear picture of at the moment – we believe that then we can find the right ways to treat or prevent this disease.”

Research into uterine infection has been neglected compared with other major diseases, Prof Sheldon says, and there are currently no vaccines or prevention strategies.

“Previously individual groups undertook some observational studies, looking at impacts of the disease, or its risk factors. But this is probably the first time a group has come together to try and specifically address the problem.”

Set-up for three years of cooperation, this research programme will aim at advancing awareness and comprehension of uterine disease and ultimately identify ways to develop new preventative solutions for cattle health.

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