Clinical, diagnostic and pathologic features of presumptive cases of Chlamydia pecorum-associated arthritis in Australian sheep flocks

Evelyn Walker, Cecily Moore, Patrick Shearer, Martina Jelocnik, Sankhya Bommana, Peter Timms, Adam Polkinghorne

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20 Citations (Scopus)
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Arthritis is an economically significant disease in lambs and is usually the result of a bacterial infection. One of the known agents of this disease is Chlamydia pecorum, a globally recognised livestock pathogen associated with several diseases in sheep, cattle and other hosts. Relatively little published information is available on the clinical, diagnostic and pathologic features of C. pecorum arthritis in sheep, hindering efforts to enhance our understanding of this economically significant disease. In this case series, a combination of standard diagnostic testing used routinely by veterinarians, such as the Chlamydia complement fixation text (CFT), veterinary clinical examinations, and additional screening via C. pecorum specific qPCR was used to describe putative chlamydial infections in five sheep flocks with suspected ovine arthritis. Case presentation: Five separate cases involving multiple lambs (aged six to ten months) of different breeds with suspected C. pecorum arthritis are presented. In two of the five cases, arthritic lambs exhibited marked depression and lethargy. Arthritis with concurrent conjunctivitis was present in four out of five lamb flocks examined. Chlamydia CFT demonstrated medium to high positive antibody titres in all flocks examined. C. pecorum shedding was evident at multiple sites including the conjunctiva, rectum and vagina, as determined via qPCR. Two of the five flocks received antimicrobials and all flocks recovered uneventfully regardless of treatment. Conclusion: This case series highlights the features a field veterinarian may encounter in cases of suspected ovine chlamydial arthritis. Our analysis suggests a presumptive diagnosis of chlamydial arthritis in lambs can be made when there is evidence of joint stiffness with or without synovial effusion and elevated chlamydia antibody titres. C. pecorum-specific qPCR was found to be a useful ancillary diagnostic tool, detecting Chlamydia positivity in low or negative CFT titre animals. Variables such as symptom duration relative to sampling, sheep breed and farm management practices were all factors recorded that paint a complex epidemiological and diagnostic picture for this disease. These case studies serve to provide a platform for further research to improve diagnostic testing and new treatment and control strategies for C. pecorum infections in sheep.
Original languageEnglish
Article number193
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 08 Sep 2016


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