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Pine needle abortion biomarker detected in bovine fetal fluids

Douglas B. Snider, Dale R. Gardner, Bruce H. Janke, Steven M. Ensley
Journal of veterinary diagnostic investigation v.27 no.1 pp. 74-79
abortion (animals), biomarkers, blood serum, cattle, conifer needles, dams (mothers), diagnostic techniques, etiology, fetus, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, herds, isocupressic acid, metabolites, placenta, stomach, tissues, trees
Pine needle abortion is a naturally occurring condition in free-range cattle caused by the consumption of pine needles from select species of cypress, juniper, pine, and spruce trees. Confirmatory diagnosis of pine needle abortion has previously relied on a combined case history of pine needle consumption and detection of isocupressic acid in a sample from the dam. Stable metabolites of isocupressic acid include agathic acid, dihydroagathic acid, and tetrahydroagathic acid, which have been shown to be present in the serum of mature animals for a few days following consumption of pine needles. As maternal serum is infrequently submitted for diagnosis of cattle abortions, a diagnostic assay capable of confirming isocupressic acid exposure in other matrices would be desirable. To the authors’ knowledge, no previous investigations have indicated whether these stable metabolites of isocupressic acid cross the placenta or are detectable in fetal tissues. Therefore, the presence of agathic acid, dihydroagathic acid, and tetrahydroagathic acid was evaluated using gas chromatography–mass spectroscopy on fetal thoracic fluid and stomach contents collected from 2 aborted bovine fetuses with a recent herd history of pine needle consumption by the dams and a subsequent abortion outbreak in the herd. Only tetrahydroagathic acid was detected in the fetal thoracic fluid and fetal stomach contents. The current study encourages diagnosticians to collect fetal thoracic fluids to permit the detection of tetrahydroagathic acid in cases of suspected pine needle abortion.