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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Mar;93(3):1234-42. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2609.

Evidence of genetic resistance of cattle to infection with Mycobacterium bovis.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Anecdotal evidence points to genetic variation in resistance of cattle to infection with Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (BTB), and published experimental evidence in deer and cattle suggests significant genetic variation in resistance and reactivity to diagnostic tests. However, such genetic variation has not been properly quantified in the United Kingdom dairy cattle population; it is possible that it exists and may be a factor influencing the occurrence of BTB. Using models based on the outcome of the process of diagnosis (ultimate fate models) and on the outcome of a single stage of diagnosis (continuation ratio models, herd test-date models), this study shows that there is heritable variation in individual cow susceptibility to BTB, and that selection for milk yield is unlikely to have contributed to the current epidemic. Results demonstrate that genetics could play an important role in controlling BTB by reducing both the incidence and the severity of herd breakdowns.

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