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Vet J. 2009 Jan;179(1):60-9. Epub 2007 Oct 24.

In utero infection of cattle with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis: a critical review and meta-analysis.

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Farm Animal and Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, PMB 3 Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.


Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Mptb) causes Johne's disease in ruminants. Disease control programmes aim to break the faecal-oral cow-calf transmission cycle through hygienic calf rearing and removal of affected cows from the herd, but these programmes do not take account of the potential for congenital infection. The aims of this study were to critically review research on in utero infection, determine the prevalence of fetal infection in cattle through meta-analysis and estimate the incidence of calves infected via the in utero route. About 9% (95% confidence limits 6-14%) of fetuses from subclinically infected cows and 39% (20-60%) from clinically affected cows were infected with Mptb (P<0.001). These are underestimates for methodological reasons. The estimated incidence of calf infection derived via the in utero route depends on within-herd prevalence and the ratio of sub-clinical to clinical cases among infected cows. Assuming 80:20 for the latter, estimates of incidence were in the range 0.44-1.2 infected calves per 100 cows per annum in herds with within-herd prevalence of 5%, and 3.5-9.3 calves in herds with 40% prevalence. These estimates were not markedly sensitive to the value chosen for the proportion of clinical cases. In utero transmission of Mptb could retard the success of disease control programmes if the opportunities for post natal transmission via colostrum/milk and environmental contamination were able to be controlled. The consequences of fetal infection for the calves so infected are discussed in the context of diagnosis and vaccination together with recommendations for future research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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