Publications

Elucidating transmission patterns of endemic Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis using molecular epidemiology

Mitchell, Rebecca M.; Beaver, Annabelle; Knupfer, Elena; Pradhan, Abani K.; Fyock, Terry; Whitlock, Robert H.; Schukken, Ynte H.

Summary

Mycobacterial diseases are persistent and characterized by lengthy latent periods. Thus, epidemiological models require careful delineation of transmission routes. Understanding transmission routes will improve the quality and success of control programs. We aimed to study the infection dynamics of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), the causal agent of ruminant Johne's disease, and to distinguish within-host mutation from individual transmission events in a longitudinally MAP-defined dairy herd in upstate New York. To this end, semi-annual fecal samples were obtained from a single dairy herd over the course of seven years, in addition to tissue samples from a selection of culled animals. All samples were cultured for MAP, and multi-locus short-sequence repeat (MLSSR) typing was used to determine MAP SSR types. We concluded from these precise MAP infection data that, when the tissue burden remains low, the majority of MAP infections are not detectable by routine fecal culture but will be identified when tissue culture is performed after slaughter. Additionally, we determined that in this herd vertical infection played only a minor role in MAP transmission. By means of extensive and precise longitudinal data from a single dairy herd, we have come to new insights regarding MAP co-infections and within-host evolution.