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J R Soc Interface. 2007 Jun 22;4(14):545-51.

Mycobacterium bovis shedding patterns from experimentally infected calves and the effect of concurrent infection with bovine viral diarrhoea virus.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK.


Concurrent infection of cattle with bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) and Mycobacterium bovis is considered to be a possible risk factor for onward transmission of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in infected cattle and is known to compromise diagnostic tests. A comparison is made here of M. bovis shedding (i.e. release) characteristics from 12 calves, six experimentally co-infected with BVDV and six infected with M. bovis alone, using simple models of bacterial replication. These statistical and mathematical models account for the intermittent or episodic nature of shedding, the dynamics of within-host bacterial proliferation and the sampling distribution from a given shedding episode. We show that while there are distinct differences among the shedding patterns of calves given the same infecting dose, there is no statistically significant difference between the two groups of calves. Such differences as there are, can be explained solely in terms of the shedding frequency, but with all calves potentially excreting the same amount of bacteria in a given shedding episode post-infection. The model can be thought of as a process of the bacteria becoming established in a number of discrete foci of colonization, rather than as a more generalized infection of the respiratory tract. In this case, the variability in the shedding patterns of the infected calves can be explained solely by differences in the number of foci established and shedding being from individual foci over time. Should maximum exposure on a particular occasion be a critical consideration for cattle-to-cattle transmission of BTB, cattle that shed only intermittently may still make an important contribution to the spread and persistence of the disease.

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