The dairy and livestock sectors constitute the mainstay of socioeconomic development and rural livelihood of our country. The buffalo is the second most important dairy animal in the world. It is considered the “black gold” of Pakistan on account of its significant contribution towards the overall milk and meat production. Pakistan has the second largest population of buffaloes which contributes to almost 68% of the total milk yield of the country. Buffalo milk is often preferred over cow milk by the consumers due to its higher fat contents. Moreover, meat, hides, manure, hair and horns are also obtained from buffaloes. However, certain diseases caused by bacteria and viruses threaten the optimal growth and productive performance of buffaloes.

Haemorrhagic septicaemia (locally known as “Gal ghotu”) is a bacterial respiratory disease of considerable economic importance seriously affecting the dairy sector of Pakistan. Although both cattle and buffaloes are affected by the disease, buffaloes are considered to be more vulnerable than cattle. The disease outbreaks frequently occur during the rainy season with resultant high rates of illness and death in animals of poor health condition. Lack of well-organised vaccination campaigns, inadequate facilities for the storage and transportation of vaccines and the gradual rise in bacterial resistance further increases the chances of disease occurrence and transmission. Diseased animals suffer from fever, nasal discharge, swelling of the throat and brisket area, difficulty breathing, recumbency and ultimately death if adequate treatment is not provided on time. Several antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory drugs are used with varying success rates for the treatment of sick animals. Therefore, appropriate treatment plans are critically required for protecting buffalo health and avoiding the economic losses associated with this fatal disease.

A study was conducted keeping in view the dire need for designing a rational and effective treatment strategy against haemorrhagic septicaemia in buffaloes. This research project recorded the determinants of absorption, distribution and elimination of ceftiofur hydrochloride (a third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic) in healthy buffalo calves and those experimentally-infected with Pasteurella multocida, the causative bacterium of haemorrhagic septicaemia. Moreover, the impact of meloxicam (an anti-inflammatory drug) co-administration on the absorption, distribution and elimination of ceftiofur were also investigated in both groups of buffalo calves. Besides, the efficacy of ceftiofur was examined against Pasteurella multocida. Finally, the collected data were analysed to determine a prudent and efficient treatment schedule for buffaloes suffering from haemorrhagic septicaemia.

Experimentally-infected buffalo calves demonstrated quick absorption, extensive distribution and faster excretion of ceftiofur hydrochloride in comparison with their healthy counterparts. The distribution and elimination patterns of ceftiofur remained unaffected following its co-administration with meloxicam in both groups of buffalo calves.

Overall, the lowest concentrations of ceftiofur hydrochloride required for growth inhibition and killing of Pasteurella multocida were estimated as 0.1875 µg/mL and 0.375 µg/mL, respectively. The dosing intervals of 72 and 48 hours were proposed for intramuscular injection of ceftiofur hydrochloride at 2.2 mg/kg body weight in healthy buffalo calves to ensure the growth inhibition and killing of Pasteurella multocida, respectively. While, growth inhibition and bacterial killing can be achieved through repeated subcutaneous administration of ceftiofur hydrochloride after 96 and 72 hours, respectively in healthy buffalo calves using the recommended dose rate. If co-administered with meloxicam, the intramuscular injection of ceftiofur hydrochloride should be repeated after 96 and 72 hours in healthy buffalo calves for growth inhibition and killing of Pasteurella multocida, respectively. On the other hand, relatively shorter dosing intervals of 48 and 36 hours were recorded for maintaining the growth inhibitory and killing concentrations of ceftiofur hydrochloride following its intramuscular administration in infected buffalo calves.

In conclusion, ceftiofur hydrochloride should be used for the treatment of haemorrhagic septicaemia in buffaloes using the appropriate doses and dosing intervals. Moreover, the indiscriminate use of ceftiofur hydrochloride should be avoided to preserve its efficacy against Pasteurella multocida, while preventing the propagation of bacterial resistance. The outcome of the current study is expected to lessen the treatment costs of this fatal disease in buffaloes, thereby mitigating the economic losses at the national level.

Dr Muhammad Adil and Dr Muhammad Ovais Omer

The writers are associated with Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore-Pakistan.