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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Nov;71(11):6963-7.

Isolation of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis from free-ranging birds and mammals on livestock premises.

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Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Surveys for Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection in free-ranging mammals and birds were conducted on nine dairy and beef cattle farms in Wisconsin and Georgia. Specimens were collected from 774 animals representing 25 mammalian and 22 avian species. Specimens of ileum, liver, intestinal lymph nodes, and feces were harvested from the larger mammals; a liver specimen and the gastrointestinal tract were harvested from birds and small mammals. Cultures were performed by using radiometric culture and acid-fast isolates were identified by 16S/IS900/IS1311 PCR and mycobactin dependency characteristics. M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis was cultured from tissues and feces from 39 samples from 30 animals representing nine mammalian and three avian species. The prevalence of infected wild animals by premises ranged from 2.7 to 8.3% in Wisconsin and from 0 to 6.0% in Georgia. Shedding was documented in seven (0.9%) animals: three raccoons, two armadillos, one opossum, and one feral cat. The use of two highly polymorphic short sequence repeat loci for analysis of 29 of the 39 strains identified 10 alleles. One allelic pattern broadly shared in domestic ruminants ("7,5") appeared in approximately one-third of the wildlife M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis isolates studied. Given the few cases of shedding by free-ranging animals compared to the volume of contaminated manure produced by infected domestic ruminant livestock, contamination of the farm environment by infected wildlife was negligible. Wildlife may, however, have epidemiological significance for farms where M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis recently has been eliminated or on farms free of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis but located in the geographic vicinity of farms with infected livestock.

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