Mycobacterium bovis: characteristics of wildlife reservoir hosts

M V Palmer
Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 2013, 60 Suppl 1: 1-13
Mycobacterium bovis is the cause of tuberculosis in animals and sometimes humans. Many developed nations have long-standing programmes to eradicate tuberculosis in livestock, principally cattle. As disease prevalence in cattle decreases these efforts are sometimes impeded by passage of M. bovis from wildlife to cattle. In epidemiological terms, disease can persist in some wildlife species, creating disease reservoirs, if the basic reproduction rate (R0) and critical community size (CCS) thresholds are achieved. Recognized wildlife reservoir hosts of M. bovis include the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand, European badger (Meles meles) in Great Britain and Ireland, African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in South Africa, wild boar (Sus scrofa) in the Iberian Peninsula and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Michigan, USA. The epidemiological concepts of R0 and CCS are related to more tangible disease/pathogen characteristics such as prevalence, pathogen-induced pathology, host behaviour and ecology. An understanding of both epidemiological and disease/pathogen characteristics is necessary to identify wildlife reservoirs of M. bovis. In some cases, there is a single wildlife reservoir host involved in transmission of M. bovis to cattle. Complexity increases, however, in multihost systems where multiple potential reservoir hosts exist. Bovine tuberculosis eradication efforts require elimination of M. bovis transmission between wildlife reservoirs and cattle. For successful eradication identification of true wildlife reservoirs is critical, as disease control efforts are most effective when directed towards true reservoirs.

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