Infectious keratoconjunctivitis and occurrence of Mycoplasma conjunctivae and Chlamydiaceae in small domestic ruminants from Central Karakoram, Pakistan

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Infectious keratoconjunctivitis (IKC) is a contagious eye disease primarily caused by Mycoplasma conjunctivae in domestic and wild Caprinae. Chlamydophila species have also been detected in ruminants with IKC. The objectives of this study are to investigate the ocular infection of M. conjunctivae and Chlamydiaceae and assess its interaction in relation to IKC in sheep and goats from remote communities around the Central Karakoram National Park in Pakistan, performing a combination of cross-sectional and case–control study design. Mostly asymptomatic and endemic infections of M. conjunctivae and Chlamydiaceae were found in sheep (19.3 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively) and goats (9.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively) from all communities, assessed by qPCR. Prevalence significantly differed between species only for M. conjunctivae (P=0.0184), which was also more prevalent in younger sheep (P<0.01). Chlamydophila pecorum was identified by sequencing and was related with IKC only when coinfection with M. conjunctivae occurred, which suggest a synergic interaction. Cluster analysis of M. conjunctivae strains revealed higher diversity of strains than expected, evidenced interspecific transmission and suggested a higher local livestock trade than previously assumed. These results highlight the widespread occurrence of M conjunctivae in sheep worldwide and its implications for wildlife should be assessed from a conservation perspective.

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