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Virus study to investigate cattle ‘commingling events’
Cattle commingling can be complex and stressful, impacting the animals' ability to fight disease.
The US-UK collaboration will focus on cattle-type coronavirus.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool are to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Minnesota to investigate the impact of ‘commingling events’ on virus spread in cattle.

The study aims to discover why some people and cattle become infected and sick during commingling events, while some do not.

To investigate this, the group will monitor the spread of a cattle-type coronavirus among commingling cattle. This will involve measuring the immune systems of the cattle, as well as the microbes in their body, in an effort to understand how the differences impact whether cattle get infected or sick.

The focus on commingling as a transmission risk was vital during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when situations such as mass-gathering events, back-to-school and air travel were restricted to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, commingling events among unfamiliar animals take place regularly during livestock production. These events can be complex and feature many stressors, which impacts animals’ ability to fight disease, while also exposing them to more pathogens.

Much like during the COVID-19 pandemic, virus spread in commingling events has the potential to have global consequences.

The researchers will monitor the spread of the cattle-type coronavirus using metagenomic and immunological data, as well as advanced modeling techniques.

This study into disease transmission will be led by Dr Noelle Noyes, associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in a collaborative research team with other US institutions as well as the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences.

It will be funded by a $3.5 million award from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The findings are expected to have an immediate effect on livestock husbandry practices, as well as developing an understanding of virus behaviour that may support future research.

Dr Joe Neary, a senior lecturer in livestock health and welfare at the University of Liverpool, said: “We hope to uncover the complex multi-level mechanisms that underlie viral transmission during intensive mixing of unfamiliar calves,

“These new insights will better inform calf husbandry practices to reduce infectious disease transmission risk, particularly where newly mixed calves have been sourced from multiple farms.”

Image © Shutterstock

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VMG president joins House of Lords

News Story 1
 Miles Russell, president of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), has been elected to the House of Lords as a crossbench hereditary peer.

He will join Lord Trees as a representative of the veterinary sector in the second chamber of the UK parliament.

Lord Russell said: "Those of us working in the animal health and veterinary sectors are only too aware of the importance of the work we do and the challenges we face.

"I will use my platform in the House of Lords to increase understanding of our sectors and to promote positive change." 

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News Shorts
Sixth case of bluetongue confirmed

A sixth case of bluetongue virus serotype 3 has been confirmed in the UK.

The case was detected in an animal on a premises linked to one of the farms within the Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) currently in place near Canterbury, Kent.

In response, the Animal and Plant Health Agency has extended the TCZ. Investigations into the spread of the disease are ongoing.

The cases in Kent come at a time when a new strain of the virus has spread rapidly across farms in the Netherlands. Both the Government and the British Veterinary Association have urged livestock keepers to remain vigilant.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and suspected cases must be reported immediately on 03000 200 301 in England or 03003 038 268 in Wales. In Scotland, possible cases should be reported to the local field services office.