Shedding patterns of dairy calves experimentally infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis

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Abstract

Although substantial fecal shedding is expected to start years after initial infection with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), the potential for shedding by calves and therefore calf-to-calf transmission is underestimated in current Johne's disease (JD) control programs. Shedding patterns were determined in this study in experimentally infected calves. Fifty calves were challenged at 2 weeks or at 3, 6, 9 or 12 months of age (6 calves served as a control group). In each age group, 5 calves were inoculated with a low and 5 with a high dose of MAP. Fecal culture was performed monthly until necropsy at 17 months of age. Overall, 61% of inoculated calves, representing all age and dose groups, shed MAP in their feces at least once during the follow-up period. Although most calves shed sporadically, 4 calves in the 2-week and 3-month high dose groups shed at every sampling. In general, shedding peaked 2 months after inoculation. Calves inoculated at 2 weeks or 3 months with a high dose of MAP shed more frequently than those inoculated with a low dose. Calves shedding frequently had more culture-positive tissue locations and more severe gross and histological lesions at necropsy. In conclusion, calves inoculated up to 1 year of age shed MAP in their feces shortly after inoculation. Consequently, there is potential for MAP transfer between calves (especially if they are group housed) and therefore, JD control programs should consider young calves as a source of infection.

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Mortier, R. A. R., Barkema, H. W., Orsel, K., Wolf, R., & De Buck, J. (2014). Shedding patterns of dairy calves experimentally infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis. Veterinary Research, 45(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13567-014-0071-1

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