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Aust Vet J. 1989 Jan;66(1):15-9.

An ELISA for the detection of anergic tuberculous cattle.

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CSIRO, Division of Animal Health, Animal Health Research Laboratory, Parkville, Victoria.


An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for bovine antibody to antigens in unheated Mycobacterium bovis culture filtrate was standardised against a reference serum from an experimentally infected cow. Two Northern Territory herds with a total of 561 cattle were tested. All cattle reacting in the caudal fold tuberculin test, those giving strong reactions in the ELISA and those with visible lesions of tuberculosis were subjected to a detailed bacteriological examination. Of the 19 cattle which yielded isolates of M. bovis, only 4 were positive to the tuberculin test. Serum samples from 5 cattle gave ELISA values greater than 7.0 units. None of these 5 reacted in the tuberculin-test and 2 had no visible lesions. Of the 10 remaining cattle from which M. bovis was isolated, 3 had ELISA values between 6.5 and 7.0 units and were also without visible lesions. The ELISA values for the remaining 7 infected cattle ranged down to 4.6 units. Forty cattle yielded no M. bovis on culture of their tissues. They included 7 which were reactors in the tuberculin test and 23 with ELISA values of 7.0 units or more. The evident low specificity and sensitivity of the ELISA make it of little value as an alternative to the tuberculin test, but it can detect some anergic cattle at the cost of increasing the number of false positive reactors. This may be acceptable in some circumstances and would justify the use of the ELISA as a complement to the tuberculin test or to an in vitro assay of T-cell immunity. In the 2 Northern Territory herds described, the removal of 5 of the anergic cattle would have required a cull of 28 animals of 5% of the total. A cut off value of 6.5 units would have eliminated 3 more, but at the cost of culling 80 animals or nearly 15% of the cattle. Even so, 7 cattle from which M. bovis was isolated would have remained undetected by either test.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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