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United Kingdom

Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IBK)

Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis is a common, highly contagious ocular disease affecting primarily calves, mainly caused by Moraxella bovis, leading to vision loss in acute cases.

The incubation period is typically 2 to 3 days, with a small opaque area appearing on the cornea within 2 days.

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  • Moraxella bovis is the most frequently identified bacterial agent causing IBK. Moraxella

    • Other gram-negative bacterial cocci related to Moraxella bovis, M. ovis (formerly Branhamella ovis), and M. bovoculi have been isolated from clinical cases of IBK. Moraxella
    • Mycoplasma spp., Acholeplasma, Chlamydia, bovine herpesvirus I (IBR) and bovine adenovirus are among the agents suspected to predispose cattle to Moraxella colonization or to add to the severity of IBK.Moraxella
      • Mycoplasma bovis can cause eye infections resembling those seen with Moraxella bovis as well.

    Physical factors and eye irritants, such as flies, dust, wind and sunlight also predispose to IBK. Flies are considered common vectors in transmission of IBK-related microbial agents among cattle, and outbreaks are common during peak fly season.

  • IBK varies from mild eye irritation to severe necrotizing inflammation, resulting in permanent scarring and vision loss. Generally, elevated body temperature and intense pain depress the appetite.

  • Diagnosis may be made on clinical signs (clinical characteristics of inflammation and partial corneal opacity) and epidemiology, but bacteriology is needed to identify the pathogen involved

  • Animals with IBK should be treated as early as possible to curb transmission to other animals and minimize the possibility of adverse and possibly permanent damage to the eye.

    • Both Moraxella bovis and Moraxella ovis (formerly Branhamella ovis) are susceptible to several anti-infectives.
    • Ointment - local treatment
    • Parenteral injections with effective antibiotics
  • Preventive measures include controlling flies with insect repellent impregnated ear tags or synthetic pyrethroids, mowing pastures, minimizing dust in hay and feed bunks, providing shade.

  • Although IBK is not fatal, it exacts an economic toll through decreased weight gain, lower milk production, additional labour and treatment costs, and devaluation of disfigured animals or carcasses.

    There is general agreement that affected animals fail to put on weight as quickly as uninfected animals. Hereford x Shorthorn crosses affected by IBK were on average 22.8 kg lighter than unaffected animals at 15 months old¹.

  • Frisch, J E (1975). The relative incidence and effect of bovine infectious keratoconjunctivitis in Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle. Animal Production, 21, 265-274.¹