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N Z Vet J. 1995 Dec;43(7):306-14.

Naturally occurring tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula): I. An epidemiological analysis of lesion distribution.

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Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Gross and microscopic lesion distributions and culture test results are described for 73 tuberculous possums recovered from a series of cross-sectional studies involving about 500 detailed necropsies. Pathological findings from 11 terminally ill tuberculous possums are also described. Quantitative epidemiological techniques were applied to lesion site data to assess factors influencing the pathogenesis of the disease. In possums with gross lesions, the number of distinct body sites affected varied from one to 10 per animal, with a mean of 4.6. The total number of gross plus microscopic lesions varied from one to 28 per animal with a mean of 11.6, indicating that the degree of generalisation of disease was much greater than appeared grossly. Of 119 possums with no gross lesions which were subjected to additional examinations, tuberculosis was diagnosed in ten (8.4%) by histology or culture of pooled lymph nodes. Among cross-sectional sample tuberculous possums, lesions were found in lungs in 85%, in axillary lymphocentres in 85%, in inguinal lymphocentres in 69%, and in either axillary or inguinal lymphocentres in 95%, indicating that the disease spread rapidly to multiple body sites. More males than females were infected (relative risk = 1.78). When cross-sectionally sampled infected and non-infected possums were compared, no significant associations were found between the presence/absence of disease and either age or indices of body condition, although debility was seen in animals with terminal illness.

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