Caprine arthritis-encephalitis (CAE) is a widespread disease in goats that was first reported in New Zealand in 1981 (Oliver 1982; Oliver et al. 1983). The disease is caused by a lentivirus (CAEV) which, like all retroviruses, inserts its genome into the DNA of the cell it infects. CAEV infects and replicates within monocytes and macrophages and these immune cells then carry the virus throughout the body. Seroconversion typically occurs slowly (months rather than weeks) and there is no simple relationship between the initial infection and moment of conversion.

All breeds and ages of goats are susceptible to infection and, once established, it persists throughout the animal’s life. Progression of the disease can take months to years and it is unusual to observe gross clinical signs prior to two years of age. Not all goats that are infected with CAEV will develop the disease and these asymptomatic carriers may spread the disease within the herd. The most common symptom of CAE is chronic arthritis in adult animals. Bilateral or unilateral swelling of the carpal region is common, hence the lay term ‘big knees’. Infection can also lead to weight loss and/or impaired milk production (Greenwood 1995).

The major transmission route of CAEV is through the ingestion of virus-infected colostrum by kids, although lateral transmission through prolonged close contact with infected animals is also thought to occur (Adams et al. 1983) and, more recently, evidence suggests that vertical transmission from the reproductive tract of infected females to their offspring is possible (Hasegawa et al. 2017). CAEV has been found in semen, so it is also possible that a doe may get the disease from an infected buck (Souza et al. 2013).

SM, Pryor

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 97-99, 2017
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