The composition of the bacterial flora in the calf nasopharynx might influence the risk of bovine respiratory disease (BRD). The aims of the present study were, firstly, to investigate the prevalence of bacteria potentially involved in BRD in the nasopharynx of veal calves and to identify associated risk factors for their presence, and, secondly, to provide data on antimicrobial resistance levels in these bacteria. Deep nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from veal calves on 12 Swiss farms over a period of one year by non-random, but systematic sampling for isolation of Pasteurellaceae and Mycoplasma (M.) bovis and dispar. Associations of potential risk factors with occurrence of these bacteria were tested in multivariable mixed logistic regression analyses, based on information gained from extensive questionnaires completed with the farmers. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was performed for Pasteurellaceae by broth microdilution method to obtain minimal inhibitory concentrations (MIC). Pasteurellaceae, including Pasteurella (P.) multocida, Mannheimia (M.) haemolytica, Bisgaard Taxon 39 and Histophilus (H.) somni, were almost twice as prevalent as M. bovis and dispar in this study. Continuous stocking was a risk factor for the presence of Pasteurellaceae, especially when calves originated from more than six suppliers. In young calves (≤ 91 days), feeding of California Mastitis Test (CMT) positive milk was an additional risk factor for the presence of Pasteurellaceae whereas transport of calves by farmers and livestock traders (as opposed to transport only by farmers) increased the risk in older calves (> 91 days). Risk factors for the presence of M. bovis/dispar were higher number of calves per drinking nipple in young calves, and no access to an outside pen and feeding of CMT positive milk in older calves, respectively. While further research will have to investigate the observed associations in more detail, this suggests that management can play an important role in the prevalence of nasopharyngeal bacteria with a potential subsequent involvement in BRD. Antimicrobial resistance differed between the three bacterial species tested in this study and was highest to oxytetracycline and spectinomycin in P. multocida, oxytetracycline and penicillin in M. haemolytica, and ampicillin and penicillin in H. somni. Only two European VetCAST breakpoints (for florfenicol in P. multocida and M. haemolytica) have been published to date, matching the MIC distribution of the present isolate populations well, in contrast to certain commonly applied American Clinical and Laboratory Institute interpretive criteria. This highlights the potential for further refinement of clinical breakpoints in veterinary medicine.
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