Fecal shedding and tissue infections demonstrate transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in group-housed dairy calves

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Abstract

Current Johne’s disease control programs primarily focus on decreasing transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) from infectious adult cows to susceptible calves. However, potential transmission between calves is largely overlooked. The objective was to determine the extent of MAP infection in calves contact-exposed to infectious penmates. Thirty-two newborn Holstein-Friesian calves were grouped into 7 experimental groups of 4, consisting of 2 inoculated (IN) calves, and 2 contact-exposed (CE) calves, and 1 control pen with 4 non-exposed calves. Calves were group housed for 3 months, with fecal samples were collected 3 times per week, blood and environmental samples weekly, and tissue samples at the end of the trial. The IN calves exited the trial after 3 months of group housing, whereas CE calves were individually housed for an additional 3 months before euthanasia. Control calves were group-housed for the entire trial. All CE and IN calves had MAP-positive fecal samples during the period of group housing; however, fecal shedding had ceased at time of individual housing. All IN calves had MAP-positive tissue samples at necropsy, and 7 (50%) of the CE had positive tissue samples. None of the calves had a humoral immune response, whereas INF-γ responses were detected in all IN calves and 5 (36%) CE calves. In conclusion, new MAP infections occurred due to exposure of infectious penmates to contact calves. Therefore, calf-to-calf transmission is a potential route of uncontrolled transmission on cattle farms.

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Corbett, C. S., De Buck, J., Orsel, K., & Barkema, H. W. (2017). Fecal shedding and tissue infections demonstrate transmission of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in group-housed dairy calves. Veterinary Research, 48(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13567-017-0431-8

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