University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover
Recent publications
Among the taxonomic family of porpoises (Phocoenidae), mating behavior in nature has been described in detail only for the harbor porpoise ( Phocoena phocoena ). We review this species’ unusual mating habits based on a study in San Francisco Bay, California, USA, and present new data from across its range in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, Black Sea, and managed care. Results confirm the male’s unique laterality oriented solely to the female’s left side as contact occurred both in nature and managed care. The male’s high-energy sexual approach to the female led to splashy aerial behavior at the surface in nature. Drone footage provided observations of subsurface mating behavior, including evidence of male–male sexual interactions and a male calf interacting sexually with its mother. Harbor porpoise reproductive anatomy is also presented, with new comparative information on the vaquita ( Phocoena sinus ). The harbor porpoise’s lateralized behavior and anatomy (i.e., long asymmetric penis, large testes size, convoluted asymmetric female reproductive tract) may have coevolved. We note gaps in knowledge, suitable platforms for future investigations (drones, bridges, boats, and coastal cliffs), and what is known about mating behavior in other porpoise species, including hybridization. We conclude with conservation implications for porpoises and encourage researchers to recognize and report mating behavior as baseline data valuable for establishing marine conservation areas.
A link between the abundance of species and their degree of ecological specialization has previously been suggested within the primate order. Many species of lemurs were only recently described and even basic ecological data are not yet available for them. We investigated the habitat use, abundance, and habitat characteristics of the critically endangered Microcebus gerpi and evaluated potential impacts of vegetation structure and human disturbances on variations in its abundance. We determined abundance by systematic nocturnal surveys along 13 transects that were also used for characterizing the vegetation structure in seven study sites that were widely distributed within its range. Although M. gerpi occurred in all studied lowland rainforest and littoral forest fragments in central eastern Madagascar and therefore has a higher ecological plasticity and wider distribution than previously thought, its actual Area of Occupancy is very small (339.78 km ² ) due to an extreme degree of habitat fragmentation throughout its range. M. gerpi occurred with a mean encounter rate of 3.04 individuals/km but abundance varied substantially between sites (0.75–4.5 individuals/km). Statistical modeling revealed that the cover of small‐ to medium‐sized trees had a positive impact on the abundance of M. gerpi , whereas a composite disturbance score (CDS), formed on the basis of information on the prominence of fires, cattle, charcoal production and wood extraction inside and around the forest, had a negative impact on abundance. These results suggest that M. gerpi is slightly less threatened than expected because of its larger geographic range, but also that it responds negatively to human disturbances. These findings raise strong conservation concerns and question the long‐term viability of the remaining small and isolated populations of this arboreal solitary forager.
OBJECTIVE To compare anamnestic factors in Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH) in affected and nonaffected horses to detect risk factors for horses developing EOTRH. ANIMALS A total of 154 Icelandic horses, aged 15 years and older, examined at 22 locations in Lower Saxony, Germany. The investigations took place from October 2020 to December 2021. METHODS Anamnestic data were collected using an owner-completed questionnaire. Horses underwent a thorough physical examination and CBC. The rostral oral cavity was clinically examined, and intraoral radiographs of the incisors were taken. Clinical and radiographic findings were scored. Based on the results, the study population was separated into “EOTRH-affected” and “EOTRH-healthy” horses. Both groups were compared to identify differences within the anamnestic factors. In case of inconclusive findings, some horses were classified as “suspicious”. RESULTS The diagnosis of EOTRH was made in 72.2% (109/151) of horses. The risk of contracting the disease increased with the age of the horse ( P = .004). In addition, there was a predisposition for male animals ( P = .032). Feeding, keeping, and dental treatments showed no significant influence, while place of birth seemed to influence horses developing EOTRH ( P = .017). CLINICAL RELEVANCE The results highlight how widespread EOTRH is among the German Icelandic horse population and the need for raising awareness of EOTRH, as many horses were not suspected of having EOTRH beforehand. Moreover, numerous etiological propositions exist, but, to date, no studies have investigated their relevance.
Inhibitors of bromodomain and extra-terminal proteins (iBETs), including JQ-1, have been suggested as potential prophylactics against SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, molecular mechanisms underlying JQ-1-mediated antiviral activity and its susceptibility to viral subversion remain incompletely understood. Pretreatment of cells with iBETs inhibited infection by SARS-CoV-2 variants and SARS-CoV, but not MERS-CoV. The antiviral activity manifested itself by reduced reporter expression of recombinant viruses, and reduced viral RNA quantities and infectious titers in the culture supernatant. While we confirmed JQ-1-mediated downregulation of expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), multi-omics analysis addressing the chromatin accessibility, transcriptome and proteome uncovered induction of an antiviral nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF-2)-mediated cytoprotective response as an additional mechanism through which JQ-1 inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication. Pharmacological inhibition of NRF-2, and knockdown of NRF-2 and its target genes reduced JQ-1-mediated inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 replication. Serial passaging of SARS-CoV-2 in the presence of JQ-1 resulted in predominance of ORF6-deficient variant, which exhibited resistance to JQ-1 and increased sensitivity to exogenously administered type I interferon (IFN-I), suggesting a minimised need for SARS-CoV-2 ORF6-mediated repression of IFN signalling in the presence of JQ-1. Importantly, JQ-1 exhibited a transient antiviral activity when administered prophylactically in human airway bronchial epithelial cells (hBAECs), which was gradually subverted by SARS-CoV-2, and no antiviral activity when administered therapeutically following an established infection. We propose that JQ-1 exerts pleiotropic effects that collectively induce an antiviral state in the host, which is ultimately nullified by SARS-CoV-2 infection, raising questions about the clinical suitability of the iBETs in the context of COVID-19.
Background Diagnosis of subclinical hypocalcemia in cattle is based on concentration of total Ca ([TCa]) in serum or plasma below the reference range, with [TCa] serving as proxy for the concentration of ionized Ca ([iCa]). Hypothesis/Objectives To investigate the relation between [iCa] and [TCa] in periparturient cows over time, and its association with various metabolites. Animals Thirty periparturient dairy cows. Methods Prospective observational study. Blood from periparturient cows was obtained between 4 days before and 7 days after calving. Samples underwent blood gas analysis and blood biochemical analysis. The ratio of [iCa] : [TCa] was computed. Repeated measures linear regression analyses, spearman correlation‐, Deming regression‐ and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were conducted. Results Correlations between [iCa] and [TCa] ranged from r = 0.55 to r = 0.84. The diagnostic value of [TCa] to identify cows with [iCa] below the arbitrary cut‐off of 1.1 mmol/L was weak in particular during the first 24 hours of lactation, but continuously improved toward the end of the study with areas under the ROC curve increasing from 0.64 at d 0 to 0.93 at d +4 after calving. Strongest association with [iCa] : [TCa] were found for albumin ( r ² = 0.58, P < .0001), pCO 2 ( r ² = 0.45, P = .0003), the standard [HCO 3 ] ( r ² = 0.22, P = .01), lactate ( r ² = 0.16, P = .04) and [NEFA] ( r ² = 0.15, P = .05). Conclusion and Clinical Importance The [TCa] is of limited value to identify cows with subnormal [iCa] in the first hours and days of lactation, a finding apparently attributable to the increased variation of a number of metabolic variables that affect the ratio of [iCa] : [TCa].
Ketosis is a metabolic disorder arising from a negative energy balance (NEB). It is characterized by high β-Hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) blood levels and associated with reduced fertility in dairy cows. To investigate the impact of BHBA on bovine caruncular epithelial cells (BCEC) in vitro, these cells were stimulated with different concentrations of BHBA. Cell metabolism and motility were examined using an MTT assay and Live-cell imaging. RT-qPCR was used to examine mRNA expressions of TNF, IL6, RELA, prostaglandin E2 synthase (PTGES2) and receptor (PTGER2) as well as integrin subunits ITGAV, ITGA6, ITGB1 and ITGB3. Stimulation with 1.8 and 2.4 mM of BHBA negatively affected cell metabolism and motility. TNF showed increased mRNA expression related to rising BHBA concentrations. IL6, RELA, ITGAV, ITGA6, ITGB1 and ITGB3 as well as PTGER2 showed no changes in mRNA expression. Stimulation with 0.6 and 1.2 mM of BHBA significantly increased the mRNA expression of PTGES2. This does not indicate a negative effect on reproductive performance because low BHBA concentrations are found in steady-state conditions. However, the results of the study show negative effects of high BHBA concentrations on the function of BCECs as well as an inflammatory response. This could negatively affect the feto-maternal communication during the peri-implantation period in ketotic dairy cows
The flavivirus non-structural protein 1 (NS1) is secreted from infected cells into the circulation and the serum levels correlate with disease severity. The effect of secreted NS1 (sNS1) on non-infected mammalian immune cells is largely unknown. Here, we expressed recombinant sNS1 proteins of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and West Nile virus (WNV) and investigated their effects on dendritic cell (DC) effector functions. Murine bone marrow-derived DCs (BMDCs) showed reduced surface expression of co-stimulatory molecules and decreased release of pro-inflammatory cytokines when treated with sNS1 of TBEV or WNV prior to poly(I:C) stimulation. Transcriptional profiles of BMDCs that were sNS1-exposed prior to poly(I:C) stimulation showed two gene clusters that were downregulated by TBEV or WNV sNS1 and that were associated with innate and adaptive immune responses. Functionally, both sNS1 proteins modulated the capacity for BMDCs to induce specific T-cell responses as indicated by reduced IFN-γ levels in both CD4 ⁺ and CD8 ⁺ T cells after BMDC co-cultivation. In human monocyte-derived DCs, poly(I:C)-induced upregulation of co-stimulatory molecules and cytokine responses were even more strongly impaired by TBEV sNS1 or WNV sNS1 pretreatment than in the murine system. Our findings indicate that exogenous flaviviral sNS1 proteins interfere with DC-mediated stimulation of T cells, which is crucial for the initiation of cell-mediated adaptive immune responses in human flavivirus infections. Collectively, our data determine soluble flaviviral NS1 as a virulence factor responsible for a dampened immune response to flavivirus infections. IMPORTANCE The effective initiation of protective host immune responses controls the outcome of infection, and dysfunctional T-cell responses have previously been associated with symptomatic human flavivirus infections. We demonstrate that secreted flavivirus NS1 proteins modulate innate immune responses of uninfected bystander cells. In particular, sNS1 markedly reduced the capacity of dendritic cells to stimulate T-cell responses upon activation. Hence, by modulating cellular host responses that are required for effective antigen presentation and initiation of adaptive immunity, sNS1 proteins may contribute to severe outcomes of flavivirus disease.
Cannibalism is common in animals, and its expression is shaped by a suite of costs and benefits beyond the caloric content of meals made of conspecifics. We report here on fortuitous observations of cannibalism of tadpoles by unrelated adult Oophaga pumilio made during experimental assays of tadpole begging. This cannibalism was rare, but performed by adults of both sexes and from six populations in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Only tadpoles at the earliest free-living stages were cannibalized, and those that were cannibalized begged more often than tadpoles at the same developmental stages that were not eaten by adults. This newly documented proficiency at capturing and consuming food in water is impressive given that O. pumilio adults are terrestrial and not known to consume aquatic prey. This ability, if employed in nature, may also afford additional reproductive opportunities to adults. The nurseries used for tadpole deposition are often limiting, and a parent could make an occupied nursery more hospitable for its young (or attractive to a potential mate) by consuming the occupant, or could even parasitize the parental investment of another mother by replacing her tadpole.
Hock lesions in dairy cows are an important indicator of animal welfare, in particular housing conditions. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of hock lesions in dairy cows kept in cubicle housing systems in three structurally different regions of Germany and to derive recommendations from risk factor analyses. Lactating and dry cows kept in cubicle housing systems were assessed for hock lesions (north: 206 farms with 20,792 cows; south: 156 farms with 8050 cows; east: 192 farms with 37,839 cows). Risk factor analyses were conducted using multi-factorial logistic regression models. The median prevalence of hock lesions (hairless patches, wounds, and/or swelling) at farm level was 79.8% (SD: 25.0; north), 66.2% (SD: 31.0; south), and 78.5% (SD: 26.3; east). The mean prevalence of severe hock lesions (wounds and/or swelling) at farm level was 12.5% (SD: 11.3; north), 8.0% (SD: 13.5; south), and 14.4% (SD: 17.9; east). Cows kept in pens with rubber mats or mattresses (with or without a small amount of litter) had a particularly higher chance of hock lesions compared with cows kept in pens with deep-bedded cubicles (OR: north: 3.1 [2.3–4.2]; south: 8.7 [5.9–13.0], east: 2.0 [1.7–2.4]). The study showed that hock lesions are a widespread problem on German dairy farms with cubicle housing systems. Deep-bedded cubicles are likely to reduce hock lesions and increase cows’ comfort.
Background Digital recording and storage of health data are becoming increasingly important in the fields of both human and veterinary medicine. There is currently a lack of information on the level of digitalisation among equine veterinarians in Germany and their attitudes towards advanced digitalisation. Objectives To collect opinions of equine veterinarians about (1) digital data collection in pre‐purchase examinations (PPEs), and (2) the establishment of an equine health database in Germany. Study design Cross‐sectional survey. Methods An online survey was developed and distributed via email exclusively to equine veterinarians in Germany. After 40 days of data collection, answers were used for descriptive statistical analyses. Results The survey was sent to 1055 recipients, of which 147 (13.9%) participated and 130 survey responses from equine veterinarians could be used for analyses. Most respondents were working in an equine practice (77.9%) and performing PPEs (93.8%), for which they mostly used printed protocols (86.0%). The PPE protocol of the German Equine Veterinary Association as a paper print was the format most frequently used (47.1%). The majority of participating equine veterinarians (90.2%) would use a digital protocol for PPEs if available. Concerns were expressed about user‐friendliness (55.9%) and integration into the daily veterinary routine (54.6%). Regarding the establishment of an equine health database, 72.3% of the respondents stated they would appreciate it. However, about one‐third would support such a development only under certain conditions: guaranteed data safety, collection of objective data or involving the opinion of other stakeholders. Main limitations Low response rate, potential non‐response bias and wide range of question topics. Conclusion A positive attitude towards digital PPEs and an equine health database in Germany became apparent. To facilitate further progress, it would be crucial to consider the concerns and conditions identified in this study to generate maximum compliance.
Background Coping with the ingested food, the gastric regions of fundus, corpus, and antrum display different motility patterns. Intrinsic components of such patterns involving mechanosensitive enteric neurons (MEN) have been described in the guinea pig gastric corpus but are poorly understood in the fundus and antrum. Methods To elucidate mechanosensitive properties of myenteric neurons in the gastric fundus and antrum, membrane potential imaging using Di‐8‐ANEPPS was applied. A small‐volume injection led to neuronal compression. We analyzed the number of MEN and their firing frequency in addition to the involvement of selected mechanoreceptors. To characterize the neurochemical phenotype of MEN, we performed immunohistochemistry. Key Results In the gastric fundus, 16% of the neurons reproducibly responded to mechanical stimulation and thus were MEN. Of those, 83% were cholinergic and 19% nitrergic. In the antrum, 6% of the neurons responded to the compression stimulus, equally distributed among cholinergic and nitrergic MEN. Defunctionalizing the sensory extrinsic afferents led to a significant drop in the number of MEN in both regions. Conclusion We provided evidence for MEN in the gastric fundus and antrum and further investigated mechanoreceptors. However, the proportions of the chemical phenotypes of the MEN differed significantly between both regions. Further investigations of synaptic connections of MEN are crucial to understand the hardwired neuronal circuits in the stomach.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic required the immediate need to transfer inactivated tissue from biosafety level (BSL)-3 to BSL-1 areas to enable downstream analytical methods. No validated SARS-CoV-2 inactivation protocols were available for either formaldehyde (FA)-fixed or glutaraldehyde (GA)-fixed tissues. Therefore, representative tissue from ferrets and hamsters was spiked with 2.2 × 10 ⁶ tissue culture infectious dose 50% per ml (TCID 50 /ml) SARS-CoV-2 or were obtained from mice experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 inactivation was demonstrated with 4% FA or 5% GA at room temperature for 72 hours by a titer reduction of up to 10 3.8 TCID 50 /ml in different animal tissues with a maximum protein content of 100 µg/mg and a thickness of up to 10 mm for FA and 8 mm for GA. Our protocols can be easily adapted for validating the inactivation of other pathogens to allow for the transfer of biological samples from BSL-3 areas to BSL-1 laboratories.
The displacement of the abomasum to the right (RDA) is a common condition regularly encountered in dairy cows, which requires urgent surgical correction. The survival of the patient primarily depends on early diagnosis and timely treatment, but other factors contributing to the outcome have been discussed in the literature. The objective of this study was to identify preoperative clinical, hematological, as well as intraoperative parameters that are associated with the prognosis of cows with RDA or abomasal volvulus (AV). This retrospective study included patients admitted to a veterinary teaching hospital over a period of 6 years with a diagnosis of RDA or AV. A total of 234 cows were included, of which 193 were discharged after treatment and thus classified as survivors. In contrast, 41 cases died or were euthanized during or after surgery and were categorized as non-survivors. Non-survivors showed more severe dehydration, higher heart rate, lower sodium, as well as higher L-lactate and phosphorus concentration in their blood prior to surgery compared with the survivors. During surgery, the abomasum of non-survivors was markedly dilated and twisted more frequently than in survivors. The results presented here can facilitate the early identification of animals with poor prognosis requiring more intensive peri- and postoperative care.
Background Canine hypoadrenocorticism is a rare chronic disease, which demands intense dog-owner interaction, as its treatment requires to be individualised. The aim of this study was a qualitative analysis of the challenges owners face when dealing with the disease, especially regarding its management and how this affects quality of life. By promoting an online discussion between owners, we transcribed and summarised their experiential knowledge in dealing with the disease. Methods Owners were recruited for the online seminars via social media. After a theoretical introduction, participants were free to share experiences and ask questions. The recorded events were retrospectively analysed. Results Twenty-four owners of 22 Addisonian dogs took part in four events. Owners felt most “traumatised” when experiencing their dog’s acute adrenal crisis. The initial adjustment phase and distinguishing the non-specific symptoms of hypoadrenocorticism from those of other diseases were also challenging. Overall, owners were well informed on the disease and committed to its long-term adjustment. Conclusions Adrenal crisis and the initial adjustment phase may be more burdening to owners than expected. Understanding what their clients’ concerns are, can help veterinarians provide better care and reduce the negative impacts of canine hypoadrenocorticism. Promoting peer to peer support, as well as providing a framework for participative communication might also help.
Background Anaemia is a common condition in alpacas and attributable to a variety of causes. Severe anaemia with a packed cell volume (PCV) less than 10% is frequently diagnosed, usually due to blood loss resulting from haemonchosis. Many South American camelids (SACs) also suffer from gastric ulcers, which are often associated with anaemia in other species. However, in alpacas and llamas, gastric ulcers usually do not lead to anaemia due to blood loss according to the current literature. There are no detailed clinical and laboratory data on this condition in the scientific literature so far. Case presentation We report on the case of a nine-year-old male alpaca that was presented to the clinic with suspected forestomach acidosis. The animal showed clinical signs of colic, hypothermia, tachypnea, tachycardia, pale mucous membranes, and died shortly after admission to the clinic. Laboratory diagnosis revealed a markedly decreased haematocrit (0.13 l/l), leucopaenia with band neutrophils, azotaemia, hypocalcaemia, hyperphosphataemia and vitamin D deficiency. Post-mortem examination revealed multiple ulcers in the first and third compartment with perforation of one ulcer in the first compartment, resulting in intraluminal blood loss and purulent peritonitis. Conclusions To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first detailed description of clinical and laboratory data of severe anaemia due to a perforated gastric ulcer in a SAC. Although the current literature suggests that severe blood loss due to gastric ulcers does not occur in SACs, this condition should be considered as a possible differential diagnosis in anaemic animals. Clinical indicators can be colic and pale mucous membranes.
To mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy supply security, there is an increasing effort toward the use of non-fossil energy sources. Crop residues have a great potential to be exploited as biomass for biogas production. However, due to their lignocellulosic structures they are difficult to degrade and do not reach competitive performance. A feasible option to mine these substrates is present in the forestomach of ruminants. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to use rumen microorganisms to improve anaerobic digestion (AD) of crop residues. For this purpose, hemp straw, mechanically pre-treated hemp fibers and shives, flax straw, flax shives, and aged and fresh rapeseed straw were evaluated using the rumen simulation technique. The AD of the substrates was divided into three batches. In two batches, hay was added as a control substrate. In summary, none of the analyzed substrates had an equivalent performance as the control hay, but pre-treated hemp fibers and shives had better AD parameters compared to all other alternative substrates, with the lowest pH (mean: 6.81), highest short chain fatty acid (20.0 mmol/day) and H 2 production (25.6 mM) and highest degradability (25.2%). Flax straw had the second-best performance (6.81, 17.4 mmol/day, 20.6 mM and 22.2%, respectively), followed by fresh rapeseed straw, hemp straw, aged rapeseed straw and flax shives. Therefore, hemp fibers and shives demonstrated to be the most suitable substrates for AD. However, since pre-treatment can represent significant additional costs for biogas production, flax straw also demonstrated to be a good alternative.
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1,056 members
Joseph Schnitzler
  • Institut für Terrestrische und Aquatische Wildtierforschung
Christian Gruber
  • Institute of Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Animal Ethology
Hans-Peter Sallmann
  • Institute of Physiological Chemistry