European Research Partners Collaborate to Combat Uterine Disease in Dairy Cattle


Four European academic research groups, together with Pfizer Animal Health, have forged a new research consortium to combat uterine disease - a problem that costs the EU dairy industry about €1.4billion annually.

Called the IPUD research project (Integrated systems approach for Preventing Uterine Disease in dairy cattle), the collaboration involves academic research groups at Swansea University, the University of Glasgow in the UK, the University of Veterinary Medicine of Hannover in Germany and INRA in France, and Pfizer Animal Health as industry partner.

The partnership, valued at €3.2 million, includes a grant awarded to the consortium by EMIDA ERA-Net – the European Commission’s body to improve science on emerging and major infectious diseases in livestock.

“The objective of the consortium approach is to bring together the best minds in the research institutes around Europe to address one of the most costly and neglected cattle diseases,” said Peter Jeffries, Group Director, Business Development and Global Alliances at Pfizer Animal Health.

The Consortium involves more than 12 researchers from highly recognised European research institutes.

A significant impact on the EU dairy industry
Led by Martin Sheldon, Professor at the School of Medicine at Swansea University, UK, the group aims to learn more about the dynamics of uterine disease.

“This project aims to translate these novel strategies into potential products that limit the impact of uterine disease,” Martin Sheldon said.

“Bacterial infections of the uterus after parturition commonly cause uterine disease and infertility in dairy cattle, and these infections have a significant impact on the EU dairy industry due to infertility and mortality,” Prof. Sheldon said.

In addition to the discomfort for the animals, the infertility also means more replacements are needed for animals that do not conceive. “This can impact on the environment of course with more greenhouse gas emissions,” Martin Sheldon added.

“By working together we hope to pursue a number of projects that could fulfil the unmet needs of the industry in relation to the control of uterine disease.”

A multi-factorial approach to improve the uterine disease understanding
INRA’s Olivier Sandra said the diverse research skills of the group will enable it to target different areas of the disease, and then combine the knowledge.

“This is a multi-factorial approach designed to understand a lot more about the disease and pathogens involved, with the ultimate aim of finding a solution to combating it.”

Hans-Joachim Schuberth, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, said a particular aim of the consortium is to find out what happens when a pathogen colonises the uterus.

“By understanding what happens within the immune system – which is something we don’t have a clear picture of at the moment – we believe that then we can find the right ways to treat or prevent this disease.”

Research into uterine infection has been neglected compared with other major diseases, Prof Sheldon says, and there are currently no vaccines or prevention strategies.

“Previously individual groups undertook some observational studies, looking at impacts of the disease, or its risk factors. But this is probably the first time a group has come together to try and specifically address the problem.”

Set-up for three years of cooperation, this research programme will aim at advancing awareness and comprehension of uterine disease and ultimately identify ways to develop new preventative solutions for cattle health.

Prof Martin Sheldon leads the Reproductive Immunobiology group at the Institute of Life Science, Swansea University, see:

Swansea University School of Medicine was established in 2001, and aims to be a centre of excellence in world-class research and medical education. For further information see:

Hannover University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) was founded in 1778 and is an internationally renowned University with excellent Veterinary Sciences and an interdisciplinary focus. For further information visit:

French National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA), was established in 1946 and today has a threefold mission to: (i) guarantee consumers high-quality food, (ii) ensure that agricultural and agro-food companies are competitive and (iii) contribute to integrated land development and sustainable management of natural resources. For more information visit:

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. Today it is a broad-based, research intensive institution with a global reach. For more information visit:

EMIDA (Emerging and Major Infectious Diseases of Livestock) is a Coordination Action funded under the European Commission’s ERA-Net scheme within the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). EMIDA involves 27 partner organisations and four associated partners involved in funding or managing animal health research programmes in 19 European countries. EMIDA aims to develop a durable focused network of national research funding organisations in Member and Associated States of the EU for the purpose of sharing information, coordinating activities and working towards a common research agenda and mutual funding activities for research on emerging and major infectious diseases of production animals including fish and bees and including those conditions which pose a threat to human health. For further information on EMIDA see also

Uterine disease was reviewed recently by members of the research consortium in a paper “Defining Postpartum Uterine Disease and the Mechanisms of Infection and Immunity in the Female Reproductive Tract in Cattle”, see:

About Pfizer Animal Health

Pfizer Animal Health, a business unit of Pfizer Inc, is a world leader in the discovery, development and manufacture of innovative animal health vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic products.  Pfizer Animal Health invests more in research and development than any other animal health company.  We work to assure a safe, sustainable global food supply from healthy beef and dairy cattle, swine, poultry and fish while helping dogs, cats and horses live healthier longer lives.  We strive to be the animal health company that provides full healthcare solutions to veterinarians, livestock producers, and pet owners.    To learn more, visit