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Vet Microbiol. 1994 May;40(1-2):153-77.

The epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis infections.

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


Mycobacterium bovis has an exceptionally wide host range, but until recent years there was little concern about infection in species other than cattle and man. Diversification of farming enterprises has led to cognizance of the need for control in other domestic animals, notably deer. There has also been recognition that self-maintaining infection is present in wildlife hosts in some countries--notably the European badger in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Australian brush-tailed possum in New Zealand, and various species of ungulates in limited areas of a number of countries. Although transmission of M. bovis can occur by a number of different routes, control measures imposed on cattle and to a lesser extent on other species have reduced a number of the routes to insignificance. Hence the vast preponderance of transmission within host species is now by the airborne route, and predominantly between species as well. Transmission of infection from badgers to cattle may be an exception, with evidence remaining equivocal about the relative importance of pasture contamination by excretion in badger urine and airborne transmission. In general, contamination of feed and pasture appears to be unimportant in transmission of the disease, because survival times of infective doses of organisms on fomites are relatively short under realistic conditions and because animals are not commonly exposed to a dose high enough to be infective by the alimentary route. Infection through the oro-pharyngeal mucous membrane may be significant, although the infective dose for this route is not known. While many species of animals can become infected with M. bovis, only a few act as maintenance hosts and the rest are spillover hosts in which infection is not self-maintaining. With the exception of cattle and deer, other species have become maintenance hosts only within part of their ecological range. For both badgers and possums, maintenance of infection within a local population is due to pseudo-vertical transmission from mother to young, and horizontal transmission linked to breeding activity. Transmission from possums to domestic animals appears to occur mainly during atypical behavioural interactions between the species, and this may well be important for badgers as well. Difficulties in controlling the disease adequately in domestic animals generally result from administrative problems since the necessary technical procedures are available and have been shown to be effective. Where there is interplay between infection in wildlife and domestic animals, eradication of the disease becomes impractical.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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