which causes the disease tick-borne fever (TBF), is the most important tick-borne pathogen in European animals. TBF may contribute to severe welfare challenges and economic losses in the Norwegian sheep industry. The bacterium causes a persistent infection in sheep and several other animal species. The objective of this study was to investigate whether intrauterine transmission occurs in persistently infected sheep. The study included thirteen 5–6-month-old unmated ewes, of which twelve were experimentally infected with A. phagocytophilum
(GenBank acc. no. M73220). Four to six weeks later, all ewes were mated, and nine became pregnant. Blood samples were collected from these ewes and their offspring. If the lamb died, tissue samples were collected. The samples were analyzed with real-time PCR (qPCR) targeting the msp2
gene. PCR-positive samples were further analyzed by semi-nested PCR and 16S rDNA sequencing. A total of 20 lambs were born, of which six died within two days. Six newborn lambs (30%) were PCR-positive (qPCR), of which one was verified by 16S rDNA sequencing. The present study indicates that intrauterine transmission of A. phagocytophilum
in persistently infected sheep may occur. The importance of these findings for the epidemiology of A. phagocytophilum
needs to be further investigated.
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