Non-inferiority of nitric oxide releasing intranasal spray compared to sub-therapeutic antibiotics to reduce incidence of undifferentiated fever and bovine respiratory disease complex in low to moderate risk beef cattle arriving at a commercial feedlot

Prev Vet Med. 2017 Mar 1;138:162-169. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.04.008. Epub 2015 Apr 20.


Undifferentiated fever, or bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDc), is a challenging multi-factorial health issue caused by viral/bacterial pathogens and stressors linked to the transport and mixing of cattle, negatively impacting the cattle feedlot industry. Common practice during processing at feedlots is administration of antibiotic metaphylaxis to reduce the incidence of BRDc. Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally occurring nano-molecule with a wide range of physiological attributes. This study evaluated the metaphylactic use of intranasal NO releasing spray (NORS) to control BRDc incidence in calves at low-moderate risk of developing BRDc, arriving at a commercial feedlot as compared to conventional antibiotic metaphylaxis. One thousand and eighty crossbred, multiple-sourced, commingled, commercial, weaned beef calves were screened, enrolled, randomized and treated upon arrival. Animals appearing sick were pulled (from their pen) by blinded pen keepers then assessed for BRDc symptoms; blood samples were taken for haptoglobin quantification and the animals were rescued with an antibiotic. After 35 days both groups showed no significant difference in BRDc incidence (5.2% of animals from NORS group and 3.2% from antibiotic group). Average daily weight gain of animals at day 150 for the NORS cohort was 1.17kg compared to 1.18kg for the antibiotic group (p>0.05). There was no significant difference in mortality in the first 35 days (p=0.7552), however, general mortality over 150 days trended higher in the antibiotic cohort. NORS treatment was shown to be safe, causing neither distress nor adverse effects on the animals. This large randomized controlled study in low-moderate BRDc incidence risk calves demonstrates that NORS treatment, as compared to conventional metaphylactic antibiotics, is non-inferior based on BRDc incidence and other metrics like weight and mortality. These data justify further studies in higher BRDc incidence risk populations to evaluate NORS as an alternative strategy to reduce sub-therapeutic metaphylaxis antibiotic use in beef cattle production.

Keywords: Antimicrobial; Bovine respiratory disease; Food-chain-sustainability; Nitric oxide; Shipping fever; Undifferentiated fever.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / veterinary*
  • Body Weight
  • Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex / epidemiology
  • Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex / mortality
  • Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex / prevention & control*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cattle
  • Fever / prevention & control*
  • Nitric Oxide / therapeutic use*
  • Random Allocation
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Nitric Oxide