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Cow's resistance to worms is genetically determined

Research carried out in the Netherlands has revealed that the genetic background of cattle apparently determines how quickly and effectively they acquire immunity to infections from gastrointestinal worms. Such infections cause considerable economic losses in the beef farming industry. During her doctoral research, Kirezi Kanobana investigated how cattle rid themselves of worms and prevent new infections.

Kanobana used an infection model in which, based on their genetic background, animals exhibited varying degrees of resistance to gastrointestinal worms. Broadly speaking there are three groups of animals. Two percent of the animals are naturally immune to a first infection. Another group reacts to the first infection with an effective immune response. In the event of a second infection these animals are protected. A third group is highly sensitive for infection and scarcely acquires any immunity even after repeated infections.

The researcher distinguished the three groups of animals by using two types of measurement. Three-month-old calves were infected with 100,000 larvae of a small-intestinal worm. After the infection an initial distinction was made on the basis of parasitological variables such as worm counts and the detection of eggs in the animals' excreta. Secondly, immunological parameters were used to confirm the three groups of animals.

In an animal that has no resistance to a worm infection, the worms occur in the first part of the small intestine. In animals that develop resistance, worms are translocated towards the end of the small intestine.

Interestingly the male worms disappear out of the intestine first, followed by the female worms. This conclusion is based on a study six different parts of the small intestine, which in calves has a length of between 25 to 40 metres. In addition to this, Kanobana also discovered a number of mechanisms that are responsible for ensuring the disappearance of the worms from the small i
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Contact: Sonja Jacobs
news@nwo.nl
31-704-330-713
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
10-Oct-2003


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